That’s a process that won’t be expedited by what the House did last week. Indeed, the most likely timetable for that happening is for both chambers to include a 2013 budget resolution with reconciliation instructions for that fiscal year when they debate and pass a 2014 budget resolution, and that most likely won’t start to happen until April or May at the earliest.
That means that, assuming a 2014 budget resolution is adopted next year, reconciliation for 2013 wouldn’t occur until around June 2013 — five months after the Jan. 2 sequester will have gone into effect.
The other theory about why the Republican leadership insisted that the misnamed, misleading and do-nothing bill be debated and passed is that it’s all political. Passing the bill gave the House GOP another way to show its commitment to cutting spending and demonstrated a desire not to go ahead with the Pentagon spending reductions that are part of the sequester.
In other words, it was just an election-year ploy.
This makes far more sense. The bill the House voted on last week will be great for many GOP candidates on the campaign trail because it will allow them to talk about their willingness to cut domestic spending, not cut military spending and move ahead with the budget process.
But recognizing it’s a political effort is an admission that last week’s debate on the bill really has nothing to do with the federal budget debate. The “reconciliation” bill is the best indication yet that those efforts won’t restart until after Nov. 6.
And in other news: The Treasury last week reported that the federal government had a $59 billion surplus in April. Not only was the surplus larger than expected, it was also the mirror image of last April’s more than $40 billion deficit. No matter what the direction, an almost $100 billion turnaround in any month is news.
There was a time when an April surplus wouldn’t have been news. Most Americans pay their individual income taxes in April, and until the past few years, that made a surplus typical. That makes this April’s results noteworthy and worth watching. If it’s the start of a return to budget normality, the overall budget deficit could begin to be much lower compared with previous years.
Stan Collender is a partner at Qorvis Communications and founder of the blog Capital Gains and Games. He is also the author of “The Guide to the Federal Budget.”