Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget

‘Line’ Items: Opening Day Edition

If they Don’t Win It’s the Same – Opening Day presaged much of the same for Washington as the home team was clobbered. The White House hopes that the president’s opening pitch being off the mark is not an omen for the upcoming political season. The return of Congress -- still battered from the health care debate -- next week will kick-off a critical stretch that will determine if any other major legislation will be enacted this year, or if lawmakers will just play small ball until after the election. Meanwhile, as the debate continues over the merits of the new health care law, CRFB last week urged continued vigilance in reigning in rising health care costs.

Striking Out on Extensions – The two parties are trading blame over the expiration of expanded unemployment benefits, health insurance subsidies for the unemployed and the Medicare “Doc fix” today because legislators could not agree on paying for the extensions before leaving town. Last week CRFB called on legislators to not circumvent PAYGO and to find responsible ways to offset costs.

Financial Regulatory Reform on Deck – Legislation to overhaul the financial regulatory system will likely step up to the plate after Congress returns. While the White House wants to sign a bill before Memorial Day, many Democrats in Congress think that’s like asking the Nats to win the pennant. Creating an independent consumer protection agency is one of the sticking points dividing the two parties.

Will Budget Resolution Get an At-Bat? – It’s not clear if Congress will swing for the bleachers when it comes to enacting a budget resolution this year or call for a sacrifice fly. Another bruising floor battle that also highlights the dire fiscal situation of the country may be too much for the Hill to handle. On the other hand, Roll Call reports that Democratic leaders, fresh off the success of moving major health care and student loan legislation through the budget reconciliation process, are considering a resolution with reconciliation instructions in order to move other legislation later this year that is filibuster proof. Congress should have an open debate about the budget and develop a budget blueprint that looks to the longer term in addressing mounting debt and sets a fiscal goal for the country that puts us on the right track.

Trustees Report Waiting in the Bullpen – The Associated Press reports that the annual report of the Social Security and Medicare Trustees will be delayed until June 30 this year so that it can account for the effects of the new health care law. The report tracks the financial health of the two major entitlements and forecasts when their trust funds will be depleted.