Congressional Fiscal Triple Play or Strike Out?

Call it an unholy trinity, a bad hat trick, a fiscal triumvirate, or a three-pronged cluster…no matter how you look at it, Congress has three big fiscal issues to tackle in a very short period of time:  the impending October 1 start of the federal fiscal year (FY 2014 for those who like budget speak), the expiration of the nation’s borrowing authority (aka debt ceiling) in mid-October, and those ongoing across-the-board cuts (that kooky “sequestration” we have been living under), which everyone would like to replace or otherwise retire or tweak in some way, shape, or form.

All this and only nine Congressional working days left in the month of September.

Given the truncated timeline, it is likely Congress will enact a short term, stop-gap spending measure (known as a continuing resolution) that generally will keep the government operating until policymakers can (maybe) come to broader agreement on the 12 individual appropriations bills that are supposed to be enacted to fund the federal government.  Long gone are the days of “regular order” appropriations, when bills were agreed to by both chambers and signed by the president on – or actually before – September 30.  The new “regular” order is enactment of continuing resolutions and missed deadlines.

The additional pressure of the government soon bumping up against the debt ceiling – the Treasury’s borrowing authority – means policymakers are likely to try to link the various fiscal issues together and start horse trading.  Although the deficit is smaller than it was at the start of this fiscal year, discretionary and mandatory spending outlays are decreasing, and more is coming into the Treasury than before, overall federal spending still outpaces income and elected officials maintain fundamentally different views regarding the role and size of government.  And none of this changes the fact that 10,000 people a day turn 65 and become eligible for Social Security and Medicare – two of the largest slices of the federal pie that are demographically poised to crowd out other spending.  So, not to be forgotten in the federal fiscal mix is entitlement reform – but we (like Congress) will tackle that another day.

For now the question remains:  will Congress clear the bases with a successful at-bat or strike out?  Only time (nine days) will tell.

This entry was posted in Appropriations, Budget, Outlook by Ilisa Halpern Paul. Bookmark the permalink.
Ilisa Halpern Paul

About Ilisa Halpern Paul

Ilisa Halpern Paul leads the District Policy Group and has more than 20 years of experience in government relations, advocacy, and policymaking in non-profit, academic, federally-funded, and government settings. Ilisa’s practice centers on advising clients with respect to advancing their federal legislative, regulatory and programmatic policy agendas. Ilisa works with clients to establish and strengthen relationships with elected officials and federal agencies, develop and implement government relations and advocacy programs, craft effective grassroots campaigns, establish coalitions and third-party stakeholder partnerships, and affect the outcomes of appropriations measures, authorizing legislation and federal regulatory actions. Ilisa is particularly skilled in creating innovative messaging, tactics, and materials in support of her clients’ policy goals. She helps her clients by bringing traditional and nontraditional partners to the table in support of common goals, fostering relationships with members of Congress and their staff, and collaborating with the administration and federal agencies. Ilisa frequently speaks at meetings and briefings providing political insight and analysis to help clients navigate the current policy environment. Ilisa previously served as director of federal government relations for the American Cancer Society and as director of federal affairs with the American Public Health Association. Ilisa worked on the legislative staff for U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). She earned a bachelor’s degree in English at UCLA and a master's of public policy degree from Georgetown University's Public Policy Institute. Originally from California, Ilisa planned to become a doctor, but found her health care niche after doing a policy internship in D.C. Ilisa lives with her husband, Scott, and their twin boys in Silver Spring, Maryland, where she is currently learning to play the drums.

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