The budget, the debt, the deficit, and what the law requires

Lost in all of this budget, debt ceiling, deficit, spending cuts, “tax the rich” fiasco is the law. So, now might be a good time to actually review the law.

 In 1974, Congress passed what is known as the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act.  It requires basically three simple things from our elected officials:

  1. the President must submit his budget by the first Monday in February,
  2. the Congressional Budget Office must “score” (i.e., tell the American people what the President’s budget will cost us) by February 15, and,
  3. both the House and the Senate must either adopt the President’s budget, or submit their alternative budgets, by April 1.

Right now, we don’t even have a budget for our country’s 2012 fiscal year, which begins October 1, 2011.

Here is how we got here.

The President did his job by submitting his budget by February 1.  The CBO did its job by “costing” the President’s budget by February 15.  Unfortunately for the President, his budget was so detached from reality that the Senate rejected it by a vote of 97 – 0.

The House passed its alternative budget by April 1. 

Thereafter, the President both vilified the House budget, and presented his own “do-over” budget. 

The terms [of the President’s “do-over budget”] were so vague that CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf told Congress he could not score it.

Meanwhile, back at the Senate, no alternative budget was passed by April 1.  In fact, not only has the Senate not yet proposed a budget for 2012, it hasn’t passed one since 2009.

Raising the debt ceiling is now the “crisis du jour”.  But, once we deal with that, as we will, the next “crisis du jour” will be the 2012 budget.

Never let a good crisis go to waste… even if the crisis is of your own making. 


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The Sound Off Sister was an Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and special trial attorney for the Department of Justice, Criminal Division; a partner in the Florida law firm of Shutts & Bowen, and an adjunct professor at the University of Miami, School of Law. The Sound Off Sister offers frequent commentary concerning legislation making its way through Congress, including the health reform legislation passed in early 2010.


  1. Shock and Awe on July 16, 2011 at 10:57 pm

    SOS, since when did you become a comedian?? Follow the law?? This government?

  2. gillie28 on July 17, 2011 at 3:15 am

    Thanks for putting that so clearly.? Makes them all look even more incompetent to run the country – if that’s possible.? Anyone want to start an isolated commune????

  3. TomL on July 17, 2011 at 9:59 am

    In their own words:
    ?”There Are No Rules Here … We Make Them Up As We Go Along” Alcee Hastings

  4. Tim-in-Alabama on July 17, 2011 at 10:13 am

    No budget was passed in 2010 when Democrats controlled both houses by big majorities. When was the last budget actually passed as prescribed by this law? 2009? Although budget would imply a spending plan with actual money within which an entity would operate.

    • Jeff S on July 17, 2011 at 10:50 pm

      The Dems didn’t pass a budget so they didn’t have to defend it during the 2010 elections.? Once again, politicians showing that they have no courage and just want to keep the gravy train rolling.

  5. phil on July 17, 2011 at 11:30 am

    The Audacity of Incompetence, by Barry O’Bama, with a forward by Harry Reid.

  6. ricbee on July 17, 2011 at 11:16 pm

    Where’s Elmendorf now-Siberia?

  7. Lynn on July 18, 2011 at 7:51 am

    Frankly, I don’t see a budget until we put more adults in the White House and Congress.

  8. gillie28 on July 18, 2011 at 10:34 am

    Lynn, agreed.? Think they should just let the WH do its thing and next year deal with the problems.? It IS a bit radical and traumati

  9. gillie28 on July 18, 2011 at 10:38 am

    oops,?BAD keyboard!? It IS a bit traumatic to try and do everything that needs to be done in one, fell swoop.? But, having objectives that are obtainable within a reasonable amount of time, with accountability, is the way to go in my opinion.? If the administration is pushed too much, they will look like the victims!? I think that if they back off and let the WH take full responsibility and do what they want right now, Obama et al will face the negative consequences in next year’s election.?

  10. johnboy111 on July 18, 2011 at 10:47 am

    let’s see how this sounds…spend like crazy..say OH NO we have a dept crisis……we must raise taxes[on the rich]? have we not?heard this from both sides???stop..stop…stop..

  11. Jeff S on July 18, 2011 at 11:58 am

    Tax the rich, The One speaks of millionaires and billionaires but actually have him define rich.? Apparently richness starts at $250,000/year give or take a couple of thousand.? To folks living in the expensive northeast this may come to a shock to them.

  12. Murphy on July 18, 2011 at 12:20 pm

    Call Senator Feinstein perhaps can we get the International Court? to arrest BHO.

  13. steve418r on July 18, 2011 at 2:07 pm

    While the President claims that raising the taxes on the wealthy will help balance the budget, ?but I have yet to hear the proof of how much his tax increases would translate into revenue. ?I don’t see where it will amount to a hill of beans next to the amount of spending he is has done and is expecting to do. ?Those “millionaires” that already have money in the bank aren’t affected because he is only talking about taking (and I mean “taking” ) income. That only leaves the individuals that are working to contribute. There will be no?noticeable?difference in the national debt. It is liberal?politics?through and through. The President should be held accountable for his statements by revealing the expected revenue increases.

  14. Lynn on July 18, 2011 at 6:29 pm

    Steve, those are all excellent points. But, I’m afraid we will never hold this President accountable for anything he says. He blames TOTUS


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