A Big Game of Chicken in Congress

Washington’s year of playing chicken and doing nothing

(decade): Fighting over 10-year budget deficits
(annual): Fighting over annual budgets
(decade): Congressional actions
(annual): Congressional actions
Dec. 1, 2010: A bipartisan deficit commission proposes a $4 trillion reduction in deficits by 2021. The plan includes entitlement cuts and increased taxes. (decade)
The fiscal year started Oct. 1 and still no budget. (annual)
Dec. 2: Congress passes a resolution to fund the government through Dec. 18. (annual)
Dec. 17: Resolution passes to fund the government through Dec. 21. (annual)
Dec. 21: Resolution passes to fund the government through Mar. 4. (annual)
Early January 2011: The bipartisan “Gang of Six” meets to discuss long-term debt reduction. (decade)
Jan. 20: Tea Party supporters in Congress press Republicans to demand $100 billion in 2011 spending cuts. (annual)
Feb. 3: House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (Wis.) proposes $74 billion in 2011 spending cuts. Tea Partiers stick with their $100 billion goal. (annual)
Feb. 14: Obama introduces first draft of the 2012 budget.(annual)
Feb. 19: After an all-nighter, House Republicans unite around a bill that cuts the 2011 budget by $61 billion. (annual)
Mar. 2: Congress passes a resolution to fund the government through Mar. 18. It contains $4 billion in cuts. (annual)
Mar. 17: Resolution passes to fund the government through Apr. 8. It contains $6 billion in additional cuts. (annual)
Late March/Early April: Federal agencies develop plans for an Apr. 8 shutdown. National parks and the Smithsonian Institution prepare to close. The IRS will suspend audits. (annual)
Apr. 5: Ryan unveils a proposal to cut $6.2 trillion over 10 years. It reduces individual and corporate taxes and cuts Medicare, Medicaid, and other programs. (decade)
Apr. 5: Obama summons House Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) to the White House. They fail to reach an agreement. (annual)
Apr. 8: Congressional leaders and the White House agree on outlines of a compromise and pass a resolution to fund the government through Apr. 15. (annual)
Apr. 13: Obama lays out a way to save $4 trillion over 12 years. It ends Bush-era tax cuts on high incomes and includes cuts to defense and entitlements. (decade)
Apr. 14: Congress finally passes the 2011 budget, which cuts spending by $38 billion over the six months left in the fiscal year. Obama signs it the next day. (annual)
Apr. 15: The Congressional Budget Office says that the deal only reduces the budget by up to $25 billion. (annual)
May 2: Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner says the U.S. will reach its borrowing limit on Aug. 2. (decade)
May 5: Vice-President Joe Biden convenes bipartisan working group. (decade)
May 17: Oklahoma GOP Senator Tom Coburn leaves the Gang of Six, saying cuts to entitlement programs stymied the group. (decade)
May 19: Biden’s group tentatively agrees to $200 billion in 10-year spending cuts without touching entitlements. (decade)
June 18: Obama and Boehner beat Biden and Ohio Governor John Kasich in a round of golf.
June 23: The Biden talks break down. (decade)
July 7: Obama encourages congressional leaders to reach a “grand bargain,” a $4 trillion deal that trims entitlement spending and increases taxes. Two days later, talks between the White House and Boehner break down. (decade)
July 12: Senator Mitch McConnell (Ky.) proposes a “last choice option” that would let Obama raise the debt limit unilaterally by $2.4 trillion in installments if he cuts spending to offset costs. (decade)
July 19: The five members of the Gang of Six propose cutting $3.7 trillion, which House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.) rejects because it includes tax increases. (decade)
July 25: Boehner proposes a two-step plan, with a $1 trillion debt ceiling increase now and more to come in 2012. (decade)
July 31: Obama says that congressional negotiators have reached an agreement. (decade)
Debt Ceiling Raised
Aug. 2: Congress passes and Obama signs the Budget Control Act of 2011. It raises the debt ceiling until 2013 and sets a Nov. 23 deadline for a bipartisan congressional supercommittee to identify reductions before triggering automatic spending cuts in 2013. (decade)

Aug. 6: Standard & Poor’s downgrades the U.S. credit rating, citing the political gridlock. (decade)
Aug. 29: Cantor says any increased costs to respond to Hurricane Irene and other disasters must be offset by more cuts. (annual)
Sept. 19: Obama unveils a plan to reduce the deficit by more than $3 trillion over a decade, including $1.5 trillion in tax increases, mostly for the wealthy. (decade)
Sept. 26: FEMA says it has enough money to last to the end of the fiscal year. That allows lawmakers to sidestep a debate over disaster funding. (annual)
New Fiscal Year, New Budget Battles
Sept. 29: Two days before the start of the 2012 fiscal year, Congress passes a resolution to fund the government through Oct. 4. (annual)

Oct. 4: Resolution passes to fund the government through Nov. 18. (annual)
Oct. 11: The Senate blocks a vote on Obama’s $447 billion jobs bill, meant to extend the payroll tax cut, give new tax cuts to businesses, and fund infrastructure projects and education. (annual)
Oct. 26: Democrats on the supercommittee offer to cut as much as $3 trillion in debt, but the plan has tax hikes. Republicans propose $2.2 trillion in cuts with no tax hikes. (decade)
Nov. 8: Republicans on the supercommittee propose reducing the deficit by $1.5 trillion. The plan includes new tax revenue and extending tax cuts. (decade)
Nov. 11: Democrats propose a tax-and-cut plan that would trim $2.3 trillion from the deficit. (decade)
Nov. 17: Resolution passes to fund the government through Dec. 16. (annual)
Nov. 21: The supercommittee members throw up their hands. (decade)
Late November/Early December: Congress spars over various measures to extend payroll tax cuts and unemployment insurance through 2012. (annual)
Dec. 13: The House votes to extend the payroll tax cut through 2012, but Senate Democrats vow to kill the measure because it also contains a provision to expedite construction of a controversial oil pipeline. (annual)
Dec. 16: Resolution passes to fund the government through Dec. 17. (annual)
Dec. 17: Congress passes the 2012 budget and sends it to Obama. (annual)
Dec. 18: The Senate overwhelmingly votes for a two-month extension to payroll tax cuts and unemployment benefits that expire at the end of the year. House Republican leaders reject the plan two days later. (annual)
Second Verse, Same as the First
Count on more showdowns next year as the calendar starts all over again.

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