No, the circus has not come to town.
President Barack Obama unveiled his first federal budget last Thursday morning amid continued economic calamity, and a Congress torn between ideological and practical concerns about federal government bailouts, investments needed to resuscitate a tragic economy and funding the operations of the federal government for the next fiscal year.
The President might wish he had operating chain saws, as opposed to trying to achieve a plan to eliminate the massive national debt, while funding desperately needed programs and services for the growing number of Americans facing economic Armageddon.
Breaking ranks with previous Presidents, President Obama laid out a ten-year fiscal plan. Yes, he introduced his formal one-year budget but President Obama also created the ten-year strategy. He needed to find a way he could balance the need to invest money in programs and initiatives now and still show Americans he has a real strategy to reduce down America’s enormous deficit and return the country to fiscal prudence.
For his fiscal year 2009-2010 budget, the President has proposed a $3.6 trillion budget to aiming to achieve some economic stability, create needed jobs, provide critical services and fund his ambitious, long-term initiatives in energy, healthcare and education.
This is the beginning of the horrid, enormously slow death-by-a-thousand paper cut federal budget process. The sounds of howling and general gnashing of teeth could be heard immediately as members of Congress on both sides of the aisle began immediate posturing barely ahead of the army of special interest group lobbyists descend upon them.
The President’s proposed budget now heads into Congress where meetings and public committee hearings will dissect the budget - adding, subtracting and sometimes completely obliterating portions line-by-line. The hope (ah yes, we still need lots of hope) is consensus can be achieved and appropriations bills the President will sign to enact the federal budget will occur by 23:59 on Wednesday, September 30. If political battles do not lead to consensus, the Congress can either pass Continuing Resolutions to keep the federal government operating without a budget or shut the government down.
The Byzantine and enormously long opera of the federal budget process has begun. For the President, the budget process will be the ultimate challenge in achieving his policy goals and success.
It is, in fact, all the marbles.
Policy with money behind is just words.
The ability to build support, do the give and take dance of negotiations between Democratic Majority and Republican Minority Caucuses and maintain support from key political constituencies will be a true test of skill, will and thrill.