Many Budget Questions

Two weeks from today, President Obama will send Congress his budget for Fiscal Year 2012.  The unanswered question is how much that spending plan will offer in terms of real budget cutbacks and changes.

While the President again mentioned the need for deficit reduction in his State of the Union Address, there were few specifics offered in the speech, or later by White House officials.

“President Obama failed to present a credible plan for long-term debt reduction,” read a Washington Post editorial over the weekend.  

“It’s no secret that we think he made a big mistake,” the Post editorial board said bluntly.

While the White House leaves the tableau fairly blank on the subject of deficit reduction, Republicans are getting ready to splash all kinds of budget cutting paint on their Congressional Canvas in coming weeks.

The same week that the Obama budget is offered, House Republicans will begin a debate on a stop-gap budget plan, which will include multiple votes on budget cuts for the current fiscal year.

GOP leaders have promised a wide open debate, with amendments from both parties, which will evidently produce a budget document that may put Democrats in the Senate on the spot over what they want to cut – and what they do not.

“There is no limit to the amount of spending we’re willing to cut,” said Speaker John Boehner on Fox News Sunday.

But like the White House, the GOP leadership has yet to put forward a list of possible spending cuts.  That will have to change in coming days.

Last week, the Congressional Budget Office reported that the deficit for the current fiscal year could reach $1.5 trillion, which would be a record level.

This will be the third budget that has been presented by the Obama White House.  In the 2010 budget, the President tried to slash or get rid of 121 programs, with a savings of $17 billion.  Congress approved about a third of that.

In the 2011 budget, the Administration asked for 126 programs to be cut or terminated, to save $240 billion over 10 years.

That was proposed in February of 2010, and almost a year later, the Congress still has not acted on that budget plan.

While that 10 year estimate is a good chunk of money, the plan would only have saved $23 billion in the current fiscal year, nowhere near the estimated $1.5 trillion deficit.

Will Democrats and the White House offer up their own cuts in the coming budget battle?  Or will they simply play defense, and float smaller plans – like in the last two Obama budgets – which don’t come close to closing the budget hole?

Interesting questions to consider as we move closer to the budget fight that Republicans say must be part of any later vote to raise the nation’s debt limit.