The Federal Budget isn’t just a plan for the US Government’s spending the following year. It’s also a statement about the federal government’s priorities. As such, it is often the subject of lengthy and heated debate.
Since President Obama was sworn into office in January 2009, the budget debate has been extremely contentious. That’s because there has been a deep difference in the plans of the two parties in Congress for responding to the economic crisis that began with the collapse of the housing market in 2007.
The economic downturn of the last five or six years reduced the amount of revenues the government has taken in, while it increased government spending on essential safety net programs like unemployment benefits and food stamps. The result was trillion-dollar deficits for four years.
The top priority of many Members of Congress, has been to rapidly reduce government spending; they believe that failure to get deficits under control in the near future will boost interest rates and choke off economic growth. A number have also expressed other reasons to cut federal spending – namely, concerns that increased government spending is creating a culture of dependency that saps recipients’ drive to be productive and self-sufficient.
On the other hand, the top priority of a number of Democrats, myself included, has been to make investments that will create jobs and promote future economic growth – investments in things like infrastructure, education, and scientific research. We believe that you can’t cut your way out of a recession; the experience of other countries has shown that such austerity efforts usually make the economy (and the deficit) worse.
These differences in approaches have been fought over a number of times during the last 5 years – in the stimulus battle of 2009, the debt limit stand-off of 2011, and the fiscal cliff crisis of 2012/2013, for example.
As a result of both economic conditions and Congressional action, however, federal budget deficits have dropped substantially and are expected to continue dropping for the next several years. The 2013 deficit, for example, is projected
to come in below $700 billion, while the 2014 and 2015 deficits are projected to come in below $600 billion and $400 billion, respectively. In other words, we are on track to reduce our nation’s record $1.4 Trillion deficit by a trillion dollars in six years despite the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. This improvement has given us a remarkable opportunity to make jobs and economic growth our top priority as we work on the Fiscal Year 2014 federal budget.
The House voted on six different budget proposals in March – budgets with a wide range of priorities. I voted in favor of the budgets that placed their top priority on creating jobs, putting Americans back to work, and increasing economic growth – and against those that made deep cuts in important government investments and safety net programs. Consequently, I voted in favor of:
Congressional Black Caucus Budget (“the Scott substitute”)
for more information on the CBC Budget
Congressional Progressive Caucus Budget (“the Grijalva substitute”)
for more information on the Congressional Progressive Caucus Budget
The official House Democrats’ Budget (“the Van Hollen substitute”)
for more information on the House Democrats’ alternative budget
Senate Democrats’ Budget (“the Mulvaney substitute”)
for more information on the Senate Democrats’ budget
Unfortunately, all these budgets were defeated.
I voted against the budget supported by the House Republican Leadership (“the Ryan Budget”). This bill would slash more than $5 trillion from the federal budget over the next ten years – much of it from Medicare, Medicaid, and other health care programs and most of it from programs that help the poor. By imposing so much austerity at once, this budget would substantially reduce aggregate demand in our economy – killing American jobs and choking off economic growth.
Regrettably, it was approved. Click here
for more information on the Ryan House Republican Budget.
The Senate has passed its version of the budget as well. Click here
for information on the Senate budget.
for a summary of President Obama's budget request, and click here
for all of the Administration’s Fiscal Year 2014 budget documents.
The next step is usually a conference committee between members of the House and Senate to work out the differences between their respective versions of the legislation, but House Republicans have refused to appoint confereees for months.
As the debate over the 2014 federal budget continues, I will continue to work to pass a budget that places its top priority on job creation and economic growth.