Congress and White House Inch Towards Budget Compromise

This week, the Congress and the White House remained deadlocked in their annual game of chicken over the passage of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2008 federal budget. The Democratic leadership in both houses will attempt next week to pass omnibus spending legislation that includes all eleven remaining appropriations bills. Congress recently passed another continuing resolution that funds federal agencies at last year’s spending levels through December 21.

The president has remained adamant that discretionary spending in the omnibus appropriations bill should not exceed $933 billion. The Democrats originally proposed a level of $954 billion, then offered to split the difference with the White House in an effort to reach a compromise. In their latest offer, the Democrats have agreed to meet the president’s spending level, with an additional $3.7 billion for veterans’ programs.

The agencies of interest to the historical and archival communities all received modest increases in the initial appropriations bills that have passed the House, so it remains to be seen whether these gains will be lost in the consolidation process.

The Democrats have painted themselves into a corner. They used the Republicans’ failure to pass budgets while they were in control of Congress as one of the rationales for electing a Democratic majority. So if the Democrats don’t pass a budget before they recess for Christmas next week, it will provide the Republicans with election year fodder during the early-January presidential caucuses and primaries.