Still Waiting for Date of Biden Budget, Congressional Address
When will we see President Biden’s budget proposal?
Starting with Ronald Reagan in 1981, every new president has given his first speech to a joint session of Congress sometime in February of his first year in office, with the economy and budget as the topic. For Reagan, and his immediate successor, George H.W. Bush, the address was accompanied by a package of proposed changes to the federal budget that the previous president had submitted to Congress on his way out of office.
The law was changed in 1990 to move the required submission date of the annual budget from January 18 to the first Monday in February, which gives the outgoing president the option to leave the budget proposal to his successor. All post-1990 presidents have taken this option. In those four instances, the new President has given an economic address to a joint session of Congress in February, followed closely by the release of a short (50 to 200-ish pages) budget summary document. The full budget, along with the tens of thousands of pages of supporting documentation from federal departments and agencies, would follow from two to six weeks later.
|Clinton||1993||Feb, 17||Feb. 17||April 8|
|G.W.Bush||2001||Feb. 27||Feb. 28||April 9|
|Obama||2009||Feb. 24||Feb 26||May 7|
|Trump||2017||Feb. 28||Feb. 28||March 16|
Again, starting with Reagan, the summary document released in the initial days of the new Administration has some kind of catchy name:
- Reagan 1981: America’s New Beginning: A Program for Economic Recovery
- Bush 1989: Building a Better America
- Clinton 1993: A Vision of Change for America
- Bush 2001: A Blueprint for New Beginnings: A Responsible Budget for America’s Priorities
- Obama 2009: A New Era of Responsibility: Renewing America’s Promise
- Trump 2017: America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again
There is still no timeframe for when President Biden will make such a speech, or when he will submit a budget. A speech is unlikely before Congress completes action on the pending COVID-19 reconciliation bill, and the earliest that Congress could feasibly complete that bill is the last week in February, so it is unlikely that a Biden speech will come before March.
(As to the budget itself, because of the Florida recount and court cases, GSA did not provide George W. Bush with transition resources until December 14, 2000. GSA did the same thing for Joe Biden on November 23, 2020, putting Biden three weeks ahead of GWB. However, Team Biden maintains that even after this, the outgoing Trump OMB did not provide their team with access to the OMB computer systems that are needed to make the calculations necessary to start considering budget options.)
The budget summary books given out around the time of a new president’s speech don’t have enough detail for the Appropriations Committee to start drafting spending bills, or for other committees to start drafting portions of the new Administration’s agenda. But they do usually have enough information for Congress to draft a budget resolution, which does at least two things. The budget resolution will tell the Appropriations Committees how much they can spend in 2022 (this was less important when the Budget Control Act spending caps were in force, but those expire at the end of fiscal 2021, so the 2022 budget matters a lot more than in recent years). And it will order another round of budget reconciliation, which will definitely be used to implement the Biden Administration’s tax policy and may also be used to address infrastructure spending as well.
In Reagan, Clinton, and George W. Bush’s first year, their initial budget submission led right into the Congressional budget resolution which then commissioned a reconciliation bill that was signed into law. But this process can take time:
|Act||Signed||Public Law #|
|OBRA 1981||Aug. 13, 1981||97-35|
|OBRA 1993||Aug. 10, 1993||103-66|
|EGTRA 2001||Jun. 6, 2001||107-16|