Last month the House voted to approve a responsible budget blueprint that would reduce our deficit, spur economic growth, and reform critical government programs. In a stark contrast, the Senate has not acted on a budget in over 1,080 days. The Rules of the House and the enforcement mechanisms in the Budget Act rely on the numbers in a budget agreed to by both House and Senate to ensure that Congress doesn't overspend. When the Senate refuses to act, the House must take steps to ensure that it can responsibly proceed with the appropriations and budget process. This is accomplished through the use of budget enforcement language in a rule, commonly called a "deemer" because it "deems" the House budget levels in place until there's a joint agreement between the House and Senate.
Both parties have employed this kind of budget enforcement resolution a total of six times over the past decade. A recent CRS report describes a "deemer" as “legislation which is deemed to serve as an annual budget resolution for purposes of establishing enforceable budget levels for a budget cycle.” Typically, the House deems a budget that has already been approved. In 2010, the Democratic Majority failed to even propose a budget resolution and they were forced to deem budget enforcement numbers that never received an up or down vote.
While we'd prefer an agreed-upon budget resolution, it is essential that some budget enforcement be put in place. Absent Senate action on its own budget and a House-Senate agreement, the House cannot move forward on key budget priorities. Work must begin on the annual spending bills and, even more important, the reconciliation process, which is necessary to ensure real savings are achieved in mandatory spending programs and the defense sequester is avoided.
The deeming resolution will be contained in the rule providing for consideration of H.R. 4089, The Sportsmen’s Heritage Act. This rule is a vehicle to ensure work on reconciliation and annual spending bills can proceed in a timely way. With the instructions in place, relevant committees will be able to identify budget savings, report them to the Budget Committee, and send them on to the full House for a vote.
These savings will be crucial to preventing the defense cuts that Defense Secretary Panetta has identified as a “sequester meat ax.” In testimony earlier this year, he called on the Congress to “adopt a large, balanced package of savings that de-trigger sequestration, reduce the deficit and maintain the strongest national defense in the world.” We believe our budget accomplishes those key goals. While we hope the Senate will also heed the Secretary’s call to action, the House will not wait for it to do so. We will move forward today by taking the steps necessary to ensure our deficit is reduced, spending is reformed, and our nation’s military doesn’t take a draconian budget hit in the process. When the Senate wants to join us as a partner in this process, we're happy to welcome them to the table.
The action on today's rule is neither unique nor simply for show. As the Secretary of Defense said, inaction is simply not an option.