2012 Budget: The race to austerity

Wednesday - 12/29/2010, 10:54am EST

Ian Swanson, News Editor, The Hill

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By Jolie Lee
Federal News Radio

As the new Congress and President Obama try to out-austere one another, what will happen with the 2012 budget? And, will there even be a 2011 budget or yet another continuing resolution?

As Congress returns to session next month, lawmakers will probably make a lot of "symbolic moves," but the serious work of budget-making may not come until closer to the expiration of the current CR on March 4, said Ian Swanson, news editor at The Hill, in an interview with the Federal Drive.

Both House and Senate "seem to need that tight deadline to get anything done," he said.

Swanson added, "I could see a series of CRs this year."

The current CR passed by Congress includes a two-year pay freeze for federal employees.

This week the Obama administration announced the 2012 budget will be delayed by about a week, expected to be presented in mid-February. The delay was largely due to the later confirmation of budget director Jacob Lew after Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) held up the nomination over a ban on oil drilling in the Gulf Coast.

Swanson said the delay probably won't have much of an effect in the big picture. The 2012 budget is really a statement of the president's priorities and not necessarily a reflection of what the final budget will look like.

"In this case, we're going to have House Republicans and the president see who can be more austere and showing they can make budget cuts," Swanson said.

Both parties did reach some compromise on the tax package, the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell and the START Treaty. However, compromise on the budget will be more difficult to come by.

"When it comes to the budget and when it comes to all the pressure Republicans will be under to tow a really hard line because of the new Tea Party members, I think it's tough to see a long-term, one-year budget agreement coming down the pipe real soon," he said.