Blue Dogs issue budget guidelines ahead of fiscal 2010 action

The fiscal 2010 budget resolution should hold nondefense domestic spending increases to the rate of inflation and reject using the budget reconciliation process to get around a Senate filibuster to pass a cap-and-trade program, according to budget principles released on Thursday by a group of 51 fiscally conservative House Democrats.

Those guidelines were developed by members of the Blue Dog Coalition in an effort to influence the fiscal 2010 budget resolution, which the House and Senate Budget committees will consider next week.

The Blue Dog document comes after President Obama released a $3.6 trillion fiscal 2010 budget, which focused on reforming healthcare; implementing a cap-and-trade bill that would limit greenhouse gas emissions, raise revenue for middle-class tax cuts and renewable energy research; and aim to improve education.

The group supports Obama's "very ambitious agenda," Rep. Allen Boyd, D-Fla., a Blue Dog leader and senior member of the Budget Committee, said on Wednesday. He added that Obama has entrusted Congress to adjust the budget to meet their mutually desired goals. One concern surrounds cap and trade, which the Blue Dogs contend pits regions of the country that have plentiful renewable resources against regions that produce traditional energy resources, such as coal. He said Blue Dogs oppose using reconciliation for cap-and-trade to ensure fairness. House and Senate Democratic leaders and the White House this week said it remains an option.

Blue Dogs also do not want a resolution that assumes cap-and-trade revenues are dedicated to any specific policy, the document said. Rather, it should encourage responsible and efficient energy production and reasonable tax policy while providing affordable energy. The group is calling for a guarantee that the $634 billion reserve fund over 10 years for healthcare reform does not increase the deficit. Obama proposed raising that fund through seeking efficiencies in the healthcare system and increasing taxes on those that make over $250,000.

Meanwhile, Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D., said Thursday the Senate budget resolution will employ a five-year budget window and "show a deficit dramatically reduced." He said it would be on par with the Obama budget, which showed a record $1.75 trillion deficit for fiscal 2009, $1.17 trillion for fiscal 2010 and $533 billion in fiscal 2013.

Conrad said his plan would achieve deficit reduction despite the worsening of the economy since Obama issued his budget outline in February. CBO is expected to release its projections as soon as Thursday, which are forecast to be worse than the White House numbers. Conrad also said Congress will have to tackle entitlement spending and tax reform as soon as possible to rein in an "unsustainable trajectory" of spending. Meanwhile, Senate Budget ranking member Judd Gregg, R-N.H., on Thursday introduced a measure to try to curb wasteful spending by giving the president the authority to send Congress up to four measures a year that consist of existing spending he deems wasteful. Congress would be required to fast track the president's proposal and consider it in eight days.

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