The most recent fiscal crisis has been resolved, government is reopened, and the nation’s debt limit has been raised sufficiently to cover our bills. But that doesn’t mean that the broader fiscal issues aren’t still front and center. The next budget fights and political battles are beginning to take shape as all sides are now focusing on a “balanced” year-end budget deal – or grand bargain. Lawmakers are preparing for the first budget conference committee in four years with our own US Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) leading the charge for the Senate. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) will take the lead for the House. The big question for that conference committee is whether they can even agree on how to reconcile the differences between the House and Senate budget measures – a difference of $91 billion. Neither side has yet agreed to using reconciliation.
The reconciliation process allows for adding instructions to a budget resolution that direct conference committees to submit legislation changing existing law, including tax and budget laws, with specified savings and spending targets. It also allows for that legislation to bypass Senate filibusters.
Regardless, the recent history of budget negotiations suggest it will be difficult to overcome the obstacles that have held back budget agreements for the past four years.