Proposing and disposing

On Feb. 10, the Trump administration released its “Budget for America’s Future.” Essentially, the document represents what the president would do if there was no U.S. Senate or House of Representatives.

When put that way, it seems far less important. It also makes me very happy that we live in a country whose federal government is composed of three branches, instead of one.

The president’s budget is an annual tradition that is ordered by a law that is nearly 100 years old. The Budget and Accounting Act of 1921 requires the President of the United States submit his budget to Congress for each fiscal year.

The president’s budget proposal is an enormous opportunity for lawmakers of the opposing party to pick out what they don’t like and make splashy headlines in the press.

It also makes lawmakers of the president’s party squirm. Many items in the president’s budget proposal are counter to their party’s stance. Fortunately for lawmakers, today’s 24-hour news cycle, coupled with the news coverage of the Democratic caucuses, means that their comments won’t be given much thought after a day or so.

Washington publication CQ Roll Call was there to film the printed budget proposal drop off at the House Budget Committee. So many copies were printed that it had to be delivered via a pallet jack truck. The president’s fiscal year 2021 budget proposal is about a half inch thick, and that doesn’t include the 1,402 pages of appendix.

One thing is for sure—the forest products industry received a boost with all the paper used.

According to the Government Publishing Office Director Hugh Halpern, the number of copies printed has gone down over the years, from 100,000 to about 20,000 copies. That doesn’t mean that less folks are reading the document. The decrease is due to the rise of the internet, as there are approximately 2 million online downloads of the budget annually, according to his office.

“We make laws here, because we do everything for Congress. When Congress puts a bill out, we print that bill. Every day, we do a Congressional Record and a Federal Register. That’s like putting out a newspaper every night,” said Government Publishing Office acting deputy director John Crawford in an interview with CQ Roll Call.

The fiscal year 2021 budget was the 99th printed version the Government Publishing Office has printed.

I don’t want to get into the specifics of the budget, because frankly, I don’t think it matters. As the old adage goes, “The President proposed, and Congress disposes.”

However, I do not dismiss the president’s annual budget process entirely. It is evidence of the hard work of federal government employees who have put together many pieces that would balance the budget in 15 years.

Perhaps most important, the president’s budget sheds some light on where the current administration’s head is at with regard to specific policies, and it also gives a glimpse into potential upcoming policy changes that the administration may be considering.

Editor’s note: Seymour Klierly writes Washington Whispers for the Journal from inside the Beltway.