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Next Year’s Budget Debate May Be Total Mess

And if all that isnít enough, the regular fiscal 2014 budget process will be under way while all of this is happening. The process could be delayed if thereís a change in administrations. But if there is no change, the presidentís budget is supposed to be sent to Congress by Feb. 4, the starting gun for Congressional budget efforts.

Itís technically possible that all of this could be dealt with in the lame-duck
session. Thereís no law or rule that would stop Congress and the White House from agreeing to a mega pact that, for example, would deal with the fiscal cliff, raise the debt ceiling and fund the government through all of 2013. It could also include a big tax reform and Medicare and Medicaid bill that, at least in the most general terms possible, seems to be included in so many CEOsí dreams and prayers these days.

Using the most polite language possible, thatís just not likely to happen.

The multiple-bites-at-the-budget-apple strategy used by House Republicans in 2011 wasnít inadvertent or ad hoc; on the contrary, it was both intentional and announced in advance.

Given the probable continuing political split in Congress (Damn, I really tried not to go there.), thereís no reason to believe that their political strategy will be any different next year. Indeed, given the makeup of the GOP Conference in the House next year, itís not clear it could be different.

Having the House and Senate, Democrats and Republicans, and the White House and Congress come together during the lame-duck session on the precise list of issues that has separated them the most assumes theyíll be able to do in four weeks what they havenít been able to do over the past four years.

If Republicans and Democrats move further away from each other after the elections, as I and many others expect, a big or even medium-sized budget deal in the lame duck will be less rather than more likely.

No big budget deal during the lame duck means that the disconcerting 2011 budget debate most likely will be replicated and then some in 2013. The real difference is that with the 2011 experience still fresh, we know how bad this could really be.

Stan Collender is managing director at Qorvis Communications and author of ďThe Guide to the Federal Budget.Ē His blog is capitalgainsandgames.com.

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