Reversing his earlier projections, Congressional Budget Office (CBO) Director Dan Crippen now projects budget surpluses for 2002 and 2003. Given this information, Republicans have renewed their hope for a balanced budget for 2003. Testifying before the Senate Budget Committee on March 6, Crippen presented the following change in outlook.
Congressional Budget Office Estimate of the President’s Budget
Fiscal Year 2002 Surplus/Deficit
Fiscal Year 2003 Surplus/Deficit
|January 2002||($21 billion) Deficit||($14 billion) Deficit|
|March 2002||$5 billion Surplus||$6 billion Surplus|
These projections do not include new initiatives such as the $43 economic billion stimulus bill which Congress passed and the President is expected to sign.
The House Budget Committee is set to markup the fiscal year 2003 Congressional budget resolution on March 13. It will feature the President’s dual spending priorities–fighting the war on terrorism and bolstering homeland security, but is expected to also address lawmakers’ concerns by adding more money for transportation and a Medicare prescription drug benefit. The President’s budget recommended a 2.8 percent increase for education.
The full House is tentatively scheduled to take up the Congressional budget resolution on the floor the following week, perhaps on March 21.House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) is cautious when asked about a balanced budget, but is far from ready to give up the idea entirely:
“We’re in a time of war. We’ve had a downturn. We’re in a recession. We’ve had a whole area of internal security we’ve been working on. There are extraordinary expenses. Our goal is a balanced budget, but there are needs to be taken care of.”
The Senate Budget Committee will not begin its markup until the week of March 18 with floor consideration happening after the Senate returns from spring recess on April 8. With different parties in control, both chambers will likely include different priorities in their version of the Congressional budget resolution, making a mutual agreement on the final resolution unlikely.