As Federal Budget 'Deadlines' Approach, Who Cares?

A set of budget deadlines is coming up, and Washington is poised once again to blow right through them, without consequence.

House Republicans today passed a bill that would deny congressional pay until a budget is passed, seeking to add teeth to an otherwise toothless budget calendar.

The White House has told House Republicans it will miss its Feb. 4 "deadline" to submit a budget proposal to Congress, blaming the fiscal-cliff negotiations that dragged on at the end of 2012.

"[B]ecause these issues were not resolved until the American Taxpayer Relief Act was enacted on January 2, 2013, the Administration was forced to delay some of its FY 2014 Budget preparations, which will in turn delay the Budget's submission to Congress," Office of Management and Budget Deputy Director for Management Jeffrey Zients wrote to House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan in a Jan. 11 letter.

Congress, in turn, faces an April 15 deadline to pass a budget resolution.

It appears unlikely that the deadline will be met, considering the House and Senate have not agreed on a budget since 2009.

Even so, Congress does not generally pass a budget on time, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) noted in a 2008 report on the budget timeline.

There are no real consequences for failing to meet the deadlines. Federal law bans consideration of spending, revenue or debt-limit legislation for the next fiscal year until a budget is passed, according to CRS. But the federal government has been funded without a budget since 2010, and that hasn't prohibited such bills from coming up.

Two conservative budget experts agreed that the consequences for missing such deadlines are basically nil, pointing out instead that Congress needs to pass a budget to define its spending priorities and rein in an out-of-control process for keeping federal balance sheets orderly.