Enzi Charging Ahead With Budget That Balances in 10 Years

Senate Budget Chairman Michael B. Enzi said Wednesday he is trying to write a fiscal 2018 budget resolution that balances in 10 years and he does not have to wait until a GOP health care bill is passed to mark up the budget in committee.

“We’re working on getting it ready now and we’ll do it as soon as we can,” Enzi told reporters when asked when the committee would vote on a budget.

The Wyoming Republican said it was necessary “to cut trillions of dollars in order to balance in 10 years, and I’m trying to balance in 10 years. That’s kind of been a principle of mine.”

Enzi added, “I’d like to do it shorter than that.”

Enzi’s plan to write a balanced budget resolution would put the Senate Budget Committee on the same fiscal page as the House Budget Committee and White House.

On Wednesday night, a GOP staff member, speaking on background, told CQ Roll Call that the Office of Management and Budget has notified Congress the president's full budget request will be released May 23.

House Budget Chairwoman Diane Black, R-Tenn., is working on a fiscal 2018 budget resolution that eliminates the deficit within a decade. The Office of Management and Budget is also writing a fiscal 2018 budget for President Donald Trump that would balance in 10 years.

While Enzi confirmed plans to include reconciliation instructions in the 2018 budget resolution, he declined to say whether those instructions would be written to call for the drafting of reconciliation legislation to make cuts in mandatory spending programs. Senate GOP leaders envision reconciliation instructions for a tax overhaul at the minimum.

Enzi said he’s working on a budget resolution that would use the recent standard of a 10-year budget window but added that “we’ve been asked about maybe doing a 20-year budget window because a lot of things, a lot of the income, comes in after the first 10 years.” 

Sen. Patrick J. Toomey, R-Pa., has suggested using a longer window in the budget resolution to allow a permanent tax cut to be passed under the fast-track reconciliation process.

Reconciliation Issues

Enzi also shed light on a question of how long the committee might have to wait to mark up a fiscal 2018 budget without fear of invalidating the fiscal 2017 reconciliation instructions that allow the Senate to pass a health care bill with a simple majority. The House has passed its version (HR 1628) that the Senate will take up next.

Many lawmakers interested in overhauling both health care and taxes are proceeding on the assumption that fiscal 2017 budget reconciliation instructions will remain in effect until a new budget resolution is adopted.  

The issue is important because the instructions were written to ensure that a GOP health care bill in the Republican-controlled Senate could be passed with a simple majority.

But there is no definitive answer yet to this question —  which turns out to be a complicated one — of how long the reconciliation instructions would last.

Enzi, however, said a fiscal 2018 budget resolution can be advanced almost up to the point of adoption by the House and Senate without jeopardizing the ability of the health care bill to move under the expedited reconciliation process. Under reconciliation, a simple majority of senators is needed for passage and Republicans control 52 seats in the chamber.

“We have to wait until after it’s resolved,” he said referring to the health care bill, “before we can finish the conference on the budget."

“We can do everything right up to the finalization of the conference (on a fiscal 2018 budget resolution) without wiping out the right for reconciliation," he said.

Enzi, a member of the Senate Finance Committee, also suggested packaging changes in the budget process that he has been working on with a debt limit increase.

“I’d really like to do some budget reform this year and plan to make that part of maybe the debt ceiling increase,” he said.

Kellie Mejdrich contributed to this report.

By:  Paul M. Krawzak
Source: CQ Roll Call