Next steps in budget battle
Aside from the wrangling over automatic spending cuts, the White House and Congress are looking ahead to several more budget battles in the coming weeks. They include:
AVOIDING GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN
Lawmakers and the White House face a March 27 deadline to prevent a partial shutdown of government agencies. That's when a six-month stopgap funding bill passed last fall runs out. The GOP-led House plans the week of March 4 to approve a plan that would include new line-by-line budgets for the Pentagon and the Department of Veterans Affairs while keeping domestic agencies on autopilot, frozen at last year's levels. Senate Democrats would like to incorporate more detailed spending bills for domestic programs but may face opposition from Republicans wary of concocting a foot-tall omnibus spending bill.
2014 BUDGET PLANS
In mid-March, both the House and Senate are expected to debate rival budget plans. These budget resolutions are nonbinding but represent an important statement of party principles. The House GOP plan promises a balanced budget by the end of a decade without raising taxes; the alternative by Senate Democrats is expected to mix in new revenues and not show balance. The two sides are not expected to be able to reconcile their differences, which promises to make it difficult to pursue follow-up legislation like the 12 annual appropriations bills.
In mid-late March, President Barack Obama is expected to release his budget -- over a month behind schedule. Budget observers will be watching for new initiatives that might help spur budget negotiations. But if he follows past practice, Obama's budget will take few, if any, political risks.