Interest Groups and the Congressional Budget Process: Lobbying in the Era of Deficit Politics
James A. Thurber
DECISIONS about the federal budget are battles over where federal money for public programs will be spent and who will pay for them. They are battles among organized interests in society. It is at the heart of American politics and the essence of interest group politics. Successful budgetary lobbying strategies and techniques are dynamic and adjust to the policy and program under consideration, as has been shown in the congressional budget process from 1974 to present. All kinds of tactics and lobbying techniques are used in the congressional budget process: direct contact with members of Congress and staff, coalition building among groups with common goals, grassroots organization (also "grasstops" and "astroturf"), media campaigns, interest group involvement in election campaigns with finances and volunteers, and high-tech lobbying such as the use of the Internet are all commonly used in trying to influence the formulation and passage of the annual budget in Congress.
If the budget policies being lobbied are macropoliticat issues that involve major confrontations between the White House and Congress, such as the proposed cuts in Medicare and Medicaid in the fiscal years 1996 and 1998 budgets, then all strategies are brought to bear on the issue. If the issue is an appropriation of funds for a single project in a congressional district or state, a micropolitical issue, then it is likely that only direct lobbying with a narrow focus and scope of conflict is used. But the most common form of budget decision making is structured around policy systems