Budget Panels Snub OMB Chief on Obama Fiscal Plan

Sen. Mike Enzi in a 2011 photo. Sen. Mike Enzi in a 2011 photo. Flickr user AMSF2011

A year ago, Office of Management and Budget Director Shaun Donovan dutifully testified before congressional budget panels after the release of the Obama administration’s fiscal 2016 budget. Not so this time. Last week, just days before Tuesday’s release of President Obama’s final budget, Republican chairmen of both the House and Senate budget committees announced that Donovan will get no hearing.

“It appears the president’s final budget will continue to focus on new spending proposals instead of confronting our government’s massive overspending and debt,” said Senate Budget Chairman Mike Enzi, R-Wyo. “It is clear that this president will not put forth the budget effort that our times and our country require. Instead of hearing from an administration unconcerned with our $19 trillion in debt, we should focus on how to reform America’s broken budget process and restore the trust of hardworking taxpayers.”  

House Budget Chairman Tom Price, R-Ga., said, “nothing in the president’s prior budgets – none of which have ever balanced – has shown that the Obama administration has any real interest in actually solving our fiscal challenges or saving critical programs like Medicare and Social Security from insolvency. Rather than spend time on a proposal that, if anything like this administration’s previous budgets, will double down on the same failed policies that have led to the worst economic recovery in modern times, Congress should continue our work on building a budget that balances and that will foster a healthy economy.”

An OMB spokeswoman told the Fiscal Times that the administration was "disappointed” that the budget panels had “decided to forgo the longstanding tradition of inviting the director...to testify on the president's budget."

On Monday, Democrats on the House committee sent a letter of protest to Price. “This choice is more than just a rejection of the House Budget Committee’s long-standing, bipartisan tradition; it is disrespectful to the committee members, the public and the president,” they said. “We urge you to rethink your choice, and to ensure that the committee lives up to its responsibilities to our members, this Congress and the American people.”

Stan Collender, executive vice president and national director of financial communications for  Qorvis/MSLGROUP, told Government Executive he couldn’t recall a time since budget reforms were enacted in 1974 when the president’s budget did not get a hearing. In 1995, newly empowered House Budget Chairman John Kasich, R-Ohio, “said President Clinton shouldn’t bother to submit a budget, but he waited for the submission and then held a hearing,” Collender said.

This year’s Republican approach, Collender said, “makes sense from a PR and media strategy standpoint,” since the hearing, were it to be held, would “come right after the New Hampshire primary, and by Sunday the president’s budget will be lost in the talk shows.”

Photo: Flickr user AMSF 2011

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