Analysis: Lots of budget talk, no action until lame duck

Wednesday - 3/28/2012, 12:20pm EDT

Mike Lillis, report, The Hill

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To date, four 2013 budget proposals have been introduced — one from President Obama, one from House Republicans, one from House Democrats and the latest one introduced by a bipartisan group.

"What we're seeing here is lunacy in the the budget debate and it happens every year," said Mike Lillis of the Hill newspaper.

He told The Federal Drive with Tom Temin and Emily Kopp that lawmakers are just jockeying for campaign fodder.

"The big difference between the House Democratic and Republican budgets are what we've been hearing about all year," Lillis said. "The Democrats still want to spend a lot of money on things like transportation, education, money to states, that sort of stuff. They're still in stimulus mode. They still want to create jobs by borrowing money and spending it."

On the other side is the budget plan introduced by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the chairman of the House Budget Committee. "He wants to cut spending and cut taxes, and that's the way the Republicans revive the economy and create jobs," Lillis said.

The latest budget proposal — the Simpson-Bowles plan — got it roots from a bipartisan committee President Barack Obama set up a few years back.

"They came up with the enormous plan to overhaul the tax code and overhaul entitlement spending — Medicare, Medicaid, all of those things," Lillis said. "That didn't go anywhere. It didn't even pass out of the supercommittee system that was intended to draft it."

Introduced by Reps. Steve LaTourette (R-Ohio) and Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), the bipartisan proposal's appearance was something of a surprise on Capitol Hill.

"No one expected that to show up," Lillis said. "It's kind of a wild card. It's going to be interesting to see who votes for that."

Congressmen have told Lillis they are uncertain of what voting for that proposal might mean. While they may support entitlement reform and comprehensive tax reform, they don't know if they want to go on the record voting for Simpson-Bowles.

"It's an election year and no one thinks anything is going to happen except for appropriations, which is why all of this budget talk is so, I don't want to say meaningless, but none of these budgets is going to pass," Lillis said. "It's a lot of wheels spinning for legislation that's not going anywhere."

He expects to see Congress pass a series of continuing resolutions, short term fixes, to keep the government operating through the election.

"Wait until after the election, and then 'Wow,' all the things they've got to come back and do," Lillis said. "All of the Bush tax cuts are going to expire. The Medicare rate-hike for doctors is going to expire. They've got to fund the government. The lame duck this year is really going to be something to watch."

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