Sick of the Sequester and the Current Budget Crisis? Here’s One Answer

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J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press

Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) Thursday, Sept. 5, 2013, on Capitol Hill in Washington.

At the Senate Democratic caucus lunch on Capitol Hill Tuesday, Barbara Mikulski of Maryland presented her colleagues with a plan to solve the current budget crisis and the sequester woes. Her idea is relatively simple: keep the government funded at current levels for two months so the Appropriations Committee, which she chairs, can deliberate and present an omnibus bill. Majority Leader Harry Reid will file an amendment to the current deliberations to prevent a shutdown through November 15.

“The best way to stop lurching on this crisis to the next crisis is to get back into funding our government the way the Founding Fathers set it out, through the appropriations process,” said Reid after the lunch.

Mikulski believes that a method for altering the current budget mess left by sequestration’s across-the-board cuts is even more important than the actual funding levels. “The House CR [continuing resolution] accepts the sequester as the new normal. I fundamentally reject that,” Mikulski told TIME. “The number is negotiable. Do I want a higher number? Yes. Am I willing to negotiate and compromise? Yes. Am I willing to capitulate? Not very likely.”

It is not yet clear how the proposal will be viewed by her Republican colleagues, but considering that Congress failed to pass any of its 12 annual appropriations bills this year, and the Senate and the House have not agreed to a budget resolution since 2009, every hint of optimism for a budget must be viewed with skepticism. Reid said that Mikulski and Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray, who spoke in favor of the proposal at lunch, have already reached out to some Republicans. Murray “continues to keep the lines of communication open with [House Budget Committee] Chairman [Paul] Ryan,” said Eli Zupnick, a Senate Budget Committee spokesman. Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who has not read the proposal yet, agrees that “the whole notion of a CR,” the current way the U.S. government is funded, “is not a particularly sensible thing.”

“You want to weigh in on the policies and each division of spending and make sure you do everything you can to make it more efficient. A CR just continues to build in old policies that in many cases are outdated and need to be changed,” said Corker. “If there’s a way for us to deal with government spending in regular order, it’s a much, much better way for us to run this government. Especially with the sequester in place you can make changes keeping within those caps that allow each of the departments to run better, I mean that is what we’re hired to do.”

How the Republicans will react is key to the success of the Mikulski proposal, which leaves open the question of a debt limit showdown. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor believes, according to the National Review, that Republicans’ position on delaying Obamacare is actually stronger while arguing over how much the Treasury can borrow. So it is possible that Mikulski will have the headache of dealing with an even more aggressive fight over the debt ceiling than now, while she is trying to pass an omnibus bill. Mikulski’s strategy relies in part upon House Republicans’ desire to get rid of sequestration, which as she mentions, they left in their government funding resolution last week.

Which is why the Democrats’ cheers of Mikulski’s proposal was qualified with little enthusiasm for working with their Republican colleagues. Murray is “certainly frustrated that Republicans have blocked a budget conference and have pushed us to the precipice of a crisis,” said Zupnick. “But now that we’re here, she thinks the responsible thing to do is do a short-term clean bill that keeps government open while negotiations continue.”

“Sen. Mikulski I think has a clear vision for how to move us forward,” said Delaware Sen. Chris Coons, who sits on the Appropriations Committee. “Through what is a completely manufactured crisis and completely unconstructive and unnecessary chaos being imposed upon our legislative process by a few extremists in the Republican Party.”

“I support Sen. Mikulski,” said Majority Whip Dick Durbin, who added that Mikulski is “usually very persuasive.”  “I think the sooner we get back to regular order with appropriation bills the better it is. Just replaying last year’s budget is a waste of taxpayer dollars.”

“I can’t tell you how the Republicans will react.”

13 comments
bobcn
bobcn

Sick of the Sequester and the Current Budget Crisis? 

Here’s another answer:  Stop voting for narcissistic right-wing crackpots who are eager to do damage to the country if they don't get their way.

LoriNYC81
LoriNYC81

Apparently sequestration has taken a toll on the first family. This morning President Obama broke the news that because of sequester cut-backs he was forced to move his mother-in-law out of the White House. That's kind of sad. http://goo.gl/ZNqYW

LoriNYC81
LoriNYC81

Apparently sequestration has taken a toll on the first family. This morning President Obama broke the news that because of sequester cut-backs he was forced to move his mother-in-law out of the White House. That's kind of sad. http://goo.gl/ZNqYW

PaulDirks
PaulDirks

Someone actually wants to govern. Someone actually want to evaluate the budget for effectiveness and efficiency.


You can sure bet that THAT'S going no where fast!

forgottenlord
forgottenlord

So the solution to continual budget crisis is for Congress to do its job?

ViableOp
ViableOp

As shown in this article, it is increasingly likely that the United States is reaching "peak debt", a situation where the federal government can neither cut spending nor increase taxes without having a massive negative impact on the economy:

http://viableopposition.blogspot.ca/2013/09/the-peak-debt-twilight-zone.html

In large part, this is thanks to a combined effort by Congress and a Federal Reserve Chairman who has subjected the economy to a very long period of zero interest rates. 

jsfox
jsfox

@ViableOpThere may be nothing worse than someone making a half baked comment in the vain glorious hope that folks will click through to the commenters blog. You have something to say? Say it. Don't write teaser ads for your blog. And in this case certainly don't write teaser ads that make no fiscal sense.



forgottenlord
forgottenlord

@ViableOp 

That has nothing to do with the debt levels and everything to do with the fact that you will always have a negative short term economic impact by taking money out of the economy - whether by cutting spending or raising taxes.  The problem with a weak recovery is that you never end up in a position where you can think about the long term because you're constantly concerned about the short term impact.  Which is why you need a robust stimulus for a robust economy that turns off and then you rebalance the budget and pay off the stimulus.  The problem is, some idiot decided to send the country to war that he didn't pay for and then didn't try to pay it off during a few good years in between but instead kept insanely high debt going so that when the Great Recession hit, you had to take debt out on debt.