WASHINGTON — Rising tax receipts are shrinking the federal deficit, and that will shape the budget debate when Congress returns from vacation next month. The big question for lawmakers: Should they renew, end or modify the tens of billions of dollars in “sequester” cuts in government spending that took effect earlier this year?
Tax revenue through June was up 14 percent from a year earlier, and that trend is expected to continue. New figures for July are due out next week, and for August on Sept. 12. That's just three days after lawmakers return to face threats by some conservatives of a government shutdown on Oct. 1 or an economy-threatening default on the national debt weeks later.
With revenue rising, what's the fight about?
Now that the government is taking in more money, Republicans in Congress are more opposed than ever to tax increases sought by President Barack Obama and the Democrats.
“This year the federal government will bring more revenue in than in any year in our history,” says House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio. “We have a spending problem in Washington.”
But Obama and the Democrats want to do away with some of the existing spending cuts, and they say they won't accept significant further reductions — unless there's also action to bring in still more revenue.