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Biden budget release likely delayed until March: Sources

Fiscal 2023 proposals would wait until after president delivers State of the Union address

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris pause Thursday to speak to reporters as they leave the U.S. Capitol following his speech in Statuary Hall marking the anniversary of the January 6th attack on the Capitol.
President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris pause Thursday to speak to reporters as they leave the U.S. Capitol following his speech in Statuary Hall marking the anniversary of the January 6th attack on the Capitol. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The White House appears to be aiming for release of President Joe Biden’s fiscal 2023 budget in March, according to multiple sources familiar with the matter, a month after the statutory deadline, which is the first Monday in February.

The Office of Management and Budget has remained mum on timing, but congressional staff have been told to expect release sometime in March at the earliest, following Biden’s address to a joint session of Congress, which Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has invited him to give on March 1.

It’s also possible release of the budget could be further delayed either by an inability to reach a deal on fiscal 2022 appropriations or action on the reconciliation bill under consideration in the Senate.

Holding off on the budget release until a final fiscal 2022 appropriations bill is enacted provides the advantage of being able to build the proposed budget off a final spending agreement for the prior year. It also would allow for more updated comparisons rather than measuring proposed changes for the budget year beginning Oct. 1, 2022, to the final budget enacted during President Donald Trump’s administration.

“I get the impression there is no desire to formulate any kind of a budget until” fiscal 2022 appropriations are resolved “so they know what the baseline is,” said G. William Hoagland, a former top GOP Senate aide.

If lawmakers are unable to reach agreement on a fiscal 2022 omnibus before the current stopgap funding extension expires on Feb. 18, it’s possible Biden will want to wait until an appropriations deal is reached before unveiling his budget.

Democratic efforts to salvage the reconciliation bill, dubbed “Build Back Better,” also could delay the budget. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., has vowed to hold a vote on the reconciliation bill after taking up election overhaul legislation later this month.

If Democrats believe they can strike a deal between West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin III and progressives in the House early in the year, Biden might want to delay the budget submission until the fate of the climate and social safety net legislation is clear.

There is no penalty for missing the statutory budget deadline, which is a frequent occurrence and not just in transition years when a new president takes office. 

In the past, uncertainty over spending or tax policy has been responsible for some of the longest delays in budget submission. President Ronald Reagan’s fiscal 1989 budget, for example, was 45 days late due to delayed enactment of the previous year’s appropriations, according to the Congressional Research Service.

President Bill Clinton was 43 days late with his fiscal 1997 budget. In a message to Congress ahead of its submittal, Clinton blamed the delay on “uncertainty over 1996 appropriations as well as possible changes in mandatory programs and tax policy.”

President Barack Obama released his fiscal 2014 budget 65 days late, with officials attributing the delay to negotiations over the “fiscal cliff” at the end of 2012 and the uncertainty resulting from impending across-the-board spending cuts.

Presidents have usually given State of the Union or inaugural addresses in January or early February. Biden’s first big address to a joint session as president didn’t come until April 28, 2021, after his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package had become law and amid fears of packing too many lawmakers into an enclosed space.

Biden’s first full budget wasn’t submitted until May 28, 2021 — an unusually long, 116-day delay his aides attributed in part to stonewalling by Trump budget officials during the transition period. The previous record dating back to the Warren G. Harding administration was 106 days in 2017, Trump’s inaugural year, according to CRS.

Over the past 30 years, the budget release has always come after the State of the Union or inaugural address, unless one counts Biden’s “skinny budget” release on April 9, 2021.

The budget came out just prior to the president’s annual address in 1990 and a few other occasions in the 1970s and 1980s, according to data compiled by CRS and the House historian’s office, but only very rarely since the 1974 law establishing the modern budget process. Release of the budget before the president’s address to a joint session at the start of the year used to be more frequent in the early part of last century when budget deadlines were earlier — and more respected.

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