Science & Technology in Congress
When President Clinton released his budget request on February 6, congressional budget hawks quickly rose to the task of analyzing the budget assumptions outlined by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) on which the budget was based. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) conducts its own analysis of the budget proposal, and released its "Preliminary Analysis of the President's Budgetary Proposals for Fiscal Year 1998," the first week of March.
The Clinton Plan to balance the budget by FY 2002 was soon attacked by the Senate Budget Committee Chairman, Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM). A weekly bulletin produced by the Senate Budget Committee stated that the CBO analysis found that the President's FY 1998 Budget, which is based on OMB assumptions, would not result in a $17 billion surplus in 2002, but a $69 billion deficit instead. Many of the differences between the OMB and CBO assumptions are based on economic forecasts which include factors such as deficit projections, entitlement projections, taxation, and rate of inflation.
House Republicans, led by Rep. John Kasich (R-OH), House Budget Committee Chairman, reacted to the CBO findings by demanding that the President submit another budget that would meet the CBO requirements. Rep. Kasich unsuccessfully brought a resolution to that effect to the House floor for debate. Democrats responded by arguing that the Republicans should submit their own budget plan. Congress is required by law to prepare a budget resolution by April 15. However, at press time no resolution had been submitted. It should be noted that the Congress has met this deadline only three times since 1975. The Senate has also been active in budget discussions, with continued debate over establishing constitutional amendment to balance the budget. The Senate failed to pass the amendment by a single vote when freshman Sen. Robert Torricelli (D-NJ) voted against it.
Not waiting for the budget resolution, Rep. George Brown (D-CA) has recently developed an "Investment Budget Initiative," which proposes a comprehensive plan to balance the budget by 2002, increase investments in R&D, education, training, and infrastructure. In addition, Rep. Brown's proposal also addresses issues such as entitlement changes, curbing "non-investment" discretionary programs, and tax cuts. Before being released on March 21, the Investment Budget Initiative was scored by the CBO, which determined that it did indeed balance.
Discussions between the White House and Budget Committee members continue behind closed doors, with both branches expressing optimism that a balanced budget agreement will be made by the end of the year. While the first round of disagreements has appeared to cease, both branches have much work to do to come to some compromise with regard to budget assumptions in the outyears.