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Girding for a federal budget battle royale, parties wrangle over rules

With Capitol Hill bracing for a battle over financial policy this summer, the focus now is on rules for the committee that will seek to reconcile House and Senate versions of the federal budget.

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) of Nevada talks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, April 23, 2013. Senator Reid asked for unanimous consent to appoint Senate negotiators for a budget conference with the House, which House Speaker John Boehner (R) of Ohio called 'stunt.'

J. Scott Applewhite / AP

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In Washington, sometimes you even have to negotiate guidelines for negotiations.

The House and Senate are creeping toward the summer’s battle royale over debt, deficits, the 2014 fiscal year federal budget, and the nation’s borrowing limit – a swarm of financial topics that will hit Capitol Hill before lawmakers break for the traditional August recess.

But right now, the leaders of both parties are trying to reach a deal on the rules for the committee that will attempt to reconcile the deeply conservative budget passed by the House GOP and the equally liberal measure offered by Senate Democrats last month.

The first steps of this drama played out in the Senate on Wednesday.

In a move clearly aimed both at shining a spotlight on the issue of the budget and tweaking the GOP in the process, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) of Nevada asked for unanimous consent to appoint Senate negotiators for a budget conference with the House.

Republicans have been the most prominent champions of so-called regular order requiring both chambers to pass budgets and subsequently agree on a compromise through negotiation. The Republican House was even the originator earlier this year of an idea that required both chambers of Congress to pass budgets or forego their pay until the end of the congressional session.

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