Kenneth Gold | March 18, 2016
Although the NCAA Tournament attracts far more attention, mid-March also marks the beginning phase of the congressional budget and appropriations process. Even though the November 2015 Bipartisan Budget Act set the discretionary spending levels for FY17, passing a budget resolution is still significant. First, a budget resolution is a political document, and provides a vehicle for the majority party to outline its fiscal plan and priorities, typically over a ten-year period. Like the last several Republican House budget resolutions, this year’s plan sets out to balance the budget in ten years.
Second, passing a budget resolution in both chambers allows for reconciliation, which permits certain kinds of budget provisions to be considered on the floor of the Senate with a simple majority, rather than the 60 votes needed to pass most legislation. Last year’s budget resolution, the first passed since 2010, allowed Republicans to finally send a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act to the president, even knowing full well that he’d veto it.
But even if the House passes its budget resolution, I’m still betting that the Senate won’t even consider one in committee. With 24 Republicans (to the Democrats 10) up for reelection in November, Majority Leader McConnell is likely unwilling to expose vulnerable incumbents to the politically difficult votes that Democrats may force them into during a debate on a budget resolution.
Still, passing a budget resolution in the House is Paul D. Ryan’s first real challenge as Speaker, and will provide insight as to how he manages the relationship between the party leadership and the newly empowered ultra-conservative wing of his party.