Acting White House budget director Jeffrey Zients has confirmed that the Obama administration’s fiscal 2014 budget will be not be ready by the normal release date in early February.
In a newly released Jan. 11 letter responding to an inquiry from House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., Zients said the “considerable uncertainty” created by the “protracted fiscal cliff negotiations” means “the administration was forced to delay its fiscal 2014 budget preparations, which in turn will delay the budget’s submission to Congress.”
The American Taxpayer Relief Act signed into law on Jan. 2, Zients stressed, “resolved a significant portion of that uncertainty” with its package of tax rate hikes and other adjustments, including the postponement of the deadline for sequestration from Jan. 2 to March 1.
“For over a year and half, the administration has been working with Congress to forge an agreement on a plan that will both grow our economy and significantly reduce the deficit,” Zients wrote, reiterating the administration’s call for a “balanced approach.” He set no date for the coming submission, but said, “The administration is working diligently on its budget request.”
The news comes after agencies had already reported that they were behind schedule in receiving “passback” guidance from OMB on their original budget requests.
After the delay was announced, Ryan gently mocked Obama on Twitter, tweating, “A small step toward fiscal sanity? Propose a budget and do so on time.”
He also republished a year-old statement in which he criticized Obama for being late with his budget more than any president since passage of the 1921 Budget and Accounting Act. “The decision to delay the release of his budget again could not come at a more precarious moment for our fiscal and economic future,” Ryan said then. “Rather than tackle these challenges head-on, this president continues to punt, while his party’s leaders in the Senate have simply abandoned responsible budgeting altogether.”
Patrick Lester, director of fiscal Policy at the Center for Effective Government (formerly OMB Watch), sees a possible calculation by the administration. “Besides the underlying scheduling issues, there’s an issue of timing,” he said. “Whatever is included in the president’s budget will be incorporated in the final deal, so it’s a form of negotiating with one’s self.”
This story was updated to add comment.