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Stan Collender on Budget Balance in 2006: A Further Downward Spiral

Stan Collender writes about how the Republican leadership will spend 2006 digging us deeper into the budget deficit hole they have dug over the past five years:

It's hard to see how anything positive will happen this year on the federal budget. Here are the reasons why.

It's An Election Year. The president's budget has not been a real fiscal blueprint for some time.... Bush's fiscal 2007 budget is very likely to be [even] more of a pure political statement... the White House is going to want to release the equivalent of a campaign platform for Republicans running for election.... This will... doom most of what the president proposes to the budget graveyard.... Second... the White House will... again underestimate revenues and economic growth and then take credit later in the year for what appears to be an improved budget outlook....

There's No Time, Part 1. The president is expected to submit his budget on Monday, Feb. 6, so the budget debate will begin on almost the latest possible date allowed by the Congressional Budget Act.... There's No Time, Part 2. The late start of the congressional session on the last day of January and the submission of the president's 2007 proposal on almost the last possible date allowed will limit the amount of time available... the situation will be even worse because of the election-year congressional schedule that will maximize the amount of time representatives and senators can spend campaigning.... There will be even be a new recess -- for St. Patrick's Day. From Feb. 6, when the Bush budget is expected to be sent to Congress, until the start of fiscal 2007 on Oct. 1, there are only about 65 legislative days.... There's No Time, Part 3. Two other problems will add to the fiscal 2007 budget scheduling woes.... Congress did not complete work on the 2006 spending or taxing reconciliation bills before it finally left town.... Treasury Secretary John Snow advised Congress last week that the federal debt ceiling will have to be raised by the middle of March... require the House to take the stand alone vote on a debt ceiling increase it always tries to avoid....

There Are No Easy Votes. It's always difficult for a federal budget to be considered in an election year. But a federal budget considered in an election year in a sharply divided and highly partisan Congress where control of one or both houses could be at stake will be murderous....

There is the very difficult budget equation that emerged last year: The spending reductions that are likely to be even marginally politically possible will make little or no dent in the deficit so they are not likely to be seen by many members of Congress as being worth the effort. The changes that would have a significant impact are not politically possible. Put all of this together and you quickly get a picture of a budget debate in 2006 that is likely to accomplish little...

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