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White House budget set for early March delivery

Timeline spelled out in memo that urges Speaker Kevin McCarthy to detail GOP budget, spending plans

President Joe Biden will meet with Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., at the White House on Wednesday.
President Joe Biden will meet with Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., at the White House on Wednesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The Biden administration will send its budget for the next fiscal year up to Capitol Hill on March 9, according to a memo from top White House aides.

That’s about a month later than the statutory deadline, which is the first Monday in February, though that target is often missed and there’s no penalty for doing so.

National Economic Council Director Brian Deese and Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young laid out the timing in a memo to “interested parties” that also discussed agenda topics for Wednesday’s scheduled meeting between President Joe Biden and Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.

The memo, first reported by ABC News, said Biden will ask McCarthy to “commit to the bedrock principle that the United States will never default on its financial obligations,” a reference to the upcoming fight over the statutory debt ceiling. Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen has warned that the U.S. could be in danger of missed payments by early June if Congress doesn’t act to raise or suspend the $31.4 trillion debt limit.

The memo also says Biden will urge McCarthy and House Republicans to release their own fiscal 2024 budget blueprint that spells out the spending cuts they want to attach to any debt limit deal and how their budget will balance if they plan to extend expiring tax cuts.

In order to balance the budget in 10 years without raising taxes as House Republicans have pledged, however, it would require cutting more than 25 percent of all federal spending, based on the most recent Congressional Budget Office forecast. 

However, McCarthy and others have consistently said in recent days that Social Security and Medicare, the two largest federal programs, aren’t on the table for cuts. 

Rep. Ralph Norman, R-S.C., one of the holdouts who negotiated with McCarthy for concessions in order to elevate him to speaker, is now McCarthy’s designee on the House Budget Committee.

Norman said panel Republicans have met several times already and have more meetings planned in order to settle on an “overall blueprint” that will address the “debt crisis and the out-of-control spending.” He said the panel could produce a plan “hopefully this week” or early next that wouldn’t be as detailed as a full budget resolution but contain “the parameters of where we want to go.”

“The main message will be no cuts to Social Security, no cuts to [Medicare]. Everything else, we’ll be taking a look at it,” Norman said.

If Medicare and Social Security are exempt, all other spending would need to be cut by nearly 44 percent, based on CBO data. And with broad opposition within the party to cutting deeply into defense or veterans’ programs, the remainder of domestic and foreign aid accounts would likely need to take an even larger hit.

And that’s before cutting taxes any further, including extensions of the 2017 tax cuts enacted under former President Donald Trump (PL 115-97), that according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget could cost up to $2.7 trillion over a decade.

“If you want to protect Social Security and Medicare, that’s fine. How about our veterans? How about Medicaid programs that go to the states? You can’t balance the budget unless you address all of those,” Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., the caucus chairman, told reporters Tuesday. “And we would welcome their pledge to protect Social Security and Medicare. I just don’t know that we can believe it.”

[Debt limit battle set to dominate 2023 fiscal agenda]

Nonbinding Deadlines

The White House typically delivers its budget after the State of the Union address, which in this case is scheduled for Feb. 7. And the $1.7 trillion fiscal 2023 omnibus spending package didn’t clear until Dec. 23, giving the administration less time to assess agencies’ needs for the new fiscal year starting Oct. 1 and provide updated comparisons to current spending.

Republicans have already been taking aim at the White House for missing the budget deadline, including in a letter Monday from House GOP conservatives led by Republican Study Committee Chairman Kevin Hern of Oklahoma and Ben Cline of Virginia, who leads the group’s budget and spending task force.

Presidents of both parties have missed the deadline, particularly in the first year of a new administration. Former President Donald Trump, a Republican, submitted his budgets late in two out of his four years in office. Democrat Barack Obama’s fiscal 2015 budget was a month late, and his fiscal 2014 budget was two months late, according to data compiled by the Congressional Research Service.

The delay means the fiscal 2024 budget appropriations process will get off to a bit of a later start. The first step is usually a hearing with the OMB director, followed by agency heads making their trips up to Capitol Hill to defend their proposals before various panels.

The Senate Budget Committee is tentatively planning to hold a hearing on the Biden budget the week of March 13, a person familiar with the discussions said.