Why the White House keeps missing its budget deadline

Government Printing Office

When the White House missed its deadline to release a budget on Monday, officials did something a little unusual: They declined to say when the blueprint would be released.

The failure to meet the deadline was not new. Under federal law, the president is required to release a budget for the following fiscal year sometime between the first Monday in January and the first Monday in February. For three years running, President Obama hasn’t submitted the document on time. (And, for three years running, Republicans have pounced on the delay.) Here are the excuses the White House has given each year:

2013: Blame Congress
This year, the White House pushed the blame onto Congress and its inability to avert, ahead of time, the impact of the fiscal cliff, the massive combined tax hikes and spending cuts scheduled to go into effect right around the end of 2012. Jeffrey Zients, director of the White House’s Office of Management and Budget, explained the delay in a Jan. 11 letter to House Budget Committee Chairman and former vice presidential hopeful Paul Ryan.

"As you know, the protracted 'fiscal-cliff' negotiations ... created considerable uncertainty about revenue and spending for 2013 and beyond," Zients wrote. "[B]ecause these issues were not resolved until the American Taxpayer Relief Act was enacted on Jan. 2, 2013, the administration was forced to delay some of its FY 2014 budget preparations, which in turn will delay the budget's submission to Congress."

When asked whether the budget would come before or after the president’s Feb. 12 State of the Union address, White House press secretary Jay Carney on Monday said only, “I don’t have a date for you for when that will happen.”

2012: “Finalize Decisions”
The White House gave a terse explanation for skipping last year’s deadline: “As in previous years, the date was determined based on the need to finalize decisions and technical details of the document,” an administration official told reporters.

In announcing the delay, however, the White House gave the date when the budget would land. It came out, as promised, on the second Monday in February.

2011: Blame Congress: The Prequel
The budget proposal due out in 2011 was also released a week late. At the time, the administration blamed Congress on two counts: for taking six weeks to confirm the White House budget director and for its late approval of legislation to fund the government.

“The administration is scrambling to assemble what could be a pivotal document following a six-week delay in the confirmation of the White House's new budget director,” The Wall Street Journal reported at the time, citing a senior administration official. “The official also cited Congress's late moves to fund government operations for the current fiscal year, which began Oct. 1.”

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