Some General Information On The Debt Ceiling Debate

Michael W. McConnell, who was assistant general counsel of the Office of Management and Budget from 1981-1983 and is not a professor of constitutional law at Stanford University and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, posted an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal today.

In his article Professor McConnell explains:

“But the absence of any written budgetary documents and the closed-door nature of the negotiating sessions make it impossible to tell which side is being “serious” and which side is being intransigent. Instead of specific proposals, scored by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and open to examination by press and public, we get vague generalities about “trillions” of dollars in supposed savings based on who-knows-what changes in policy.”

He cites the ‘rules’ that according to law should be governing the current discussion on the budget and the debt ceiling.  According to the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act, which Congress enacted in 1974, the president must submit a proposed budget “on or before” the first Monday in February.  The CBO (Congressional Budget Office)  has until February 15th to score the budget.  President Obama did submit a budget–it was defeated in the Senate 97 to 0.  In April, the President made a speech proposing a new plan, but with no specifics.

The Budget Act requires the House and Senate to hold hearings on the President’s budget proposal.  By April 1, the House and Senate must adopt the President’s proposal or put forth an alternative.  By April 15, Congress must adopt a concurrent resolution embodying a congressional budget.  Appropriations bills must stay within this budget or be subject to a point of order.

The House of Representatives has passed a budget.  The Senate has not passed a budget since 2009. 

The Budget Act was designed to make the budget process transparent and prevent the neverending vague negotiations we are currently enduring.  We have no idea what the President’s suggestions are, and the only idea we have of the Republican position is from the Ryan budget, which the White House and the mainstream press have labeled unacceptable. 

It’s time to get back to following the rules and bringing the process out into the open air.  Sunshine is the best disinfectant.