President to Send Valentine to Congress!
(Actually it's just the Budget, due February 14.)
Here's a primer for those following along at home.
Budget and Appropriations are not the same thing.
The federal budget is "what we plan to do." Appropriations are "what we are going to pay for." Or, as Wikipedia explains , "The budget resolution serves as a blueprint for the actual appropriation process, and provides Congress with some control over the appropriations process. No new spending authority, however, is provided until appropriation bills are enacted."
The 2011 Continuing (Appropriations) Resolution Expires March 4
Congress did not pass a 2011 budget in 2010. Instead, it operated under a series of "continuing resolutions," (CRs) which maintain spending at existing levels, with no new programs allowed. The latest continuing resolution expires on March 4, 2011. So, before then, Congress must pass an appropriations bill for 2011 or another CR to keep the federal government operating past March 4.
On Friday, February 11, House Republicans released their plan for 2011 , which touts $100 billion in cost savings . That number is complicated because it compares the plan to the proposed 2011 Obama budget (which was never enacted) rather than to current spending levels. You can weigh in on the House proposal, HR 1 , on POPVOX.
The President Introduces his (Proposed) Budget on February 14
At the same time that this Appropriations discussion about the CR for 2011 is taking place, Congress will also be debating The 2012 Budget.
On Monday, February 14, Obama sends his budget to Capitol Hill. The President's Budget is an outline, a proposal, a "this is how I would do it if I didn't have to go through Congress," version. The Budget will be made available online and literally "delivered" to the offices on Capitol Hill, where Congressional aides will begin scouring the language in preparation for the Budget hearings of the week. Administration officials will appear before the Committees of jurisdiction and answer questions about the proposed budget.
The schedule for Capitol Hill Budget Hearings is as follows:
Feb. 15 Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner testifies before the House Ways and Means Committee Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius testifies before the Senate Finance Committee White House budget director Jacob Lew testifies before the Senate Budget Committee
Feb. 16 Energy Secretary Stephen Chu testifies before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius testifies before the House Ways and Means Committee White House budget director Jacob Lew testifies before the House Ways and Means Committee Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner testifies before the Senate Finance Committee
Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner testifies before the Senate Budget Committee
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano testifies before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee
Congress will not vote on the President's budget (except in the highly unlikely case that House or Senate Leadership decide to bring it to a vote.) Instead, the Budget Committees in both chambers will release their own proposed budgets for eventual votes, usually in April.
The Debt Ceiling
April may turn out to be a contentious month not only because Congress will be voting on the 2012 budget, but because they will also have to consider raising the "debt ceiling," the Treasury Department's borrowing limit. Treasury Secretary Geithner recently notified Congress that the limit would be reached around April 5 to May 31.