Part II. Congressional Budgeting | Howell E. Jackson | August 19, 2015

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Part II. Congressional Budgeting

Original Creator: Howell E. Jackson Current Version: Howell E. Jackson Show/Hide
  1. 1 Show/Hide More Class Two -- Tuesday, January 5th, 2016
    Original Creator: Howell E. Jackson Current Version: Howell E. Jackson

    This class is an introduction to the modern budget process that began with the 1974 Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act. The “Seven Year Budget War” between Presidents Johnson and Nixon and Congress culminated in the watershed 1974 statute that introduced the present-day budget process. The first reading, excerpts from Allen Schick's “Seven Year Budget Wars,” chronicles the battles between the executive and legislative branches that led to the 1974 Budget Act. The second reading, Train v. City of New York, 420 U.S. 35 (1975), addresses the legality of President Nixon's decision to “impound” certain spending. Finally, please read Chapter One of “Fiscal Challenges,” “The Congressional Budget Process” by William Dauster, as an overview of the aftermath of the 1974 Budget Act and the modern-day budget calendar.

    Team Assignment (Teams B, F & J): Please write a short (3-5 page) memorandum describing how the 1974 Budget Act addresses the problems underlying the Seven Year Budget Wars.

    Background readings: Chapters 5 and 6 of Schick's “The Federal Budget” are assigned for further details on the roles of the President and Congress in modern budgeting . Copies of the book are available in the Cop and on reserve in Langdell Library. The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, a left-leaning budget think tank, also puts out an excellent “Policy Basics” overview of the annual budget process, which is available below.

    1. 1.3 Show/Hide More Allen Schick, Seven Year Budget Wars (1980)
      Please read the highlighted sections: pp. 43-49 “President vs. Congress” on Nixon impoundment” and pp. 71-81 on “Principles of Budget Reform” in 1974 Budget Act.
  2. 2 Show/Hide More Class Three -- Wednesday, January 6, 2016
    Original Creator: Howell E. Jackson

    In today’s class, we will continue our discussion of the evolution of congressional procedures since 1974. As part of our discussion, we will focus our attention on the The Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Act, which is explored in Kate Stith, Our Fiscal Constitution, 76 Cal. L. Rev. 593 (1988), and also the subject of the Supreme Court's Decision in Bowshar v. Synar, 478 U.S. 714 (1986). As you review these materials, consider how you would evaluate the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Act as a matter of public policy. Why did the Supreme Court find aspects of the legislation to be unconstitutional?

    One of the principal innovations of the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Act was a process known as sequestration. As recounted in the Dews & McConnell briefing paper on Sequestration and the Budget Control Act of 2011, this procedure has been adapted over time and remains a part of modern budget practice.

    Team Assignment (Teams C, G, I & K): Please write a short (3-5 page) memorandum comparing the 2011 Budget Act sequestration procedures with those originally in the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Act. How would you evaluate the changes?

    For background reading, the Baron and McCaffrey chapter from Fiscal Challenges attempts to test the theoretical underpinnings of the “Starve the Beast” strategy that is sometimes said to underlying measures like Gramm-Rudman-Hollings. Fiscal Challenges is available in the Coop and on reserve in Langdell Library. How compelling is the strategy as well as the Baron/McCaffrey assessment?

  3. 3 Show/Hide More Class Four -- Thursday, January 7th, 2016
    Original Creator: Howell E. Jackson

    In today's class, we will first turn our attention to the economics of federal deficits and debt, as well as their measurement. For an introduction to the subject, read pages 141-155 of Fiscal Challenges: Chapter Five: Michael J. Boskin, Economic Perspectives on Federal Deficits and Debt, which describes different ways that policymakers project future deficits and debt.

    We will then turn to a recent paper by David Kamin that discusses different normative approaches in setting a budget “baseline”; please read the highlighted sections that discuss the purposes of budget baselines, and the different types of budget baselines. (For additional background on issue of dynamic scoring versus static scoring, see the D’Amico Briefing Paper on the topic included as background readings for today’s class.)

    Individual Assignment: For Today’s class, please write a short memorandum (2-3 pages) assessing the merits of Professor Kamin’s proposal with respect to budgetary baselines. Would you endorse his recommendation?

    For a practical application of baseline projections, please review Part 1 of the CBO's 2015 Long-Term Budget Outlook. What does the CBO believe the budget will look like in 50 years, and what types of assumptions must it make to reach these projections?

    As background readings – in addition to the briefing paper on dynamic versus static scoring mentioned above — we have included several documents highlighting the complexities of longer-term budget projections. Scan the CBO's 10-year budget projection in 1998, which predicted surpluses through the 2000s. How did intervening geopolitical, legislative, and economic developments undermine the CBO's predictions for future surpluses? Part 7 of the CBO's 2015 Long-Term Budget Outlook discusses the assumptions that the Office must make today in order to project spending and revenue out to 2040. (Part 7 can be accessed through the link to Part I of the report, assigned above as part of today's core readings.)

    1. 3.3 Show/Hide More Congressional Budget Office, 2015 Long-Term Budget Outlook, Part 2 (June 2015)
      Congressional Budget Office, 2015 Long-Term Budget Outlook, Part 2: “The Long-Term Outlook for Major Federal Health Care Programs (June 2015)
  4. 4 Show/Hide More Class Five -- Friday, January 8th, 2016
    Original Creator: Howell E. Jackson Current Version: Howell E. Jackson

    In today's class, we will continue our discussion of Congressional budgeting procedures, focusing on various techniques that have been introduced over the years to facilitate budgeting in the face of political constraints.

    Please read the student briefing papers on the budget reconciliation process and the use of continuing resolutions. Then choose one of the other two briefing papers to read – either on the use of earmarks or the use of appropriations riders.

    Team Assignment: (Teams A, D, E & H) Write a short (3-5 page) memorandum explaining which, if any, of the reform proposals discussed in the background readings you would endorse based on our discussions over the past week.

    For background, we’ve included two papers on budget reform proposals, one from the Heritage Foundation and a second from the Committee for a Responsible Budget.

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August 19, 2015

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Howell E. Jackson

James S. Reid, Jr. Professor of Law

Harvard University

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