Last night, Western Massachusetts nerds assembled for Nerd Nite NoHo to hear Jo Comerford, NPP’s Executive Director, talk about what’s going on with the federal budget.
Here's what's happening and why nerds and non-nerds alike should be paying attention.
All five steps should be completed before the start of a fiscal year. Guess which step we're on for passing the current budget?
Step two is where the House and Senate individually set overall spending limits for the year and then get together to reconcile their differences. When the House and Senate agree on spending amounts early in the process, it’s easier for lawmakers to agree on individual appropriations later in the process.
This is supposed to happen in the spring, but Congress couldn't agree, and that's how we got to the start of the fiscal year without a budget – causing a government shutdown. Now, a budget conference committee has formed to finish step two by December 13th.
If the conference committee does its job, we’re on to steps three, four, and five of the budget process, due on January 15th, 2014. Likely, lawmakers will take a shortcut by combining one or more of the twelve appropriations into a single spending bill (called an omnibus). Either way, if there’s no budget by January 15th, Congress will have to pass another temporary spending bill, or the government will shut down again.
It's up to us to make sure lawmakers do their jobs. Nerds and others: contact your lawmakers and ask them to support a smart blueprint for 2014 spending, a de-politicized debt ceiling raise, and thorough and transparent process for creating the 2015 budget.