Most Read: Opinions

direct signup

Join a Discussion

Weekly schedule, past shows

Right Turn
Posted at 08:30 AM ET, 04/18/2012

Senate Democrats punt on the budget, again

Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) had a bright idea: The Senate should pass a budget. It was a fine insight, since it legally is supposed to do just that but hasn’t in about three years. He decided he would use the Simpson-Bowles debt commission proposal. Sounds like a respectable idea. But then the Senate Democrats and Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) swooped in, forcing Conrad to retreat. No votes on the budget! Don’t make us show our hand!

Pathetically, Conrad announced, “This is the wrong time to vote in committee; this is the wrong time to vote on the floor. I don’t think we will be prepared to vote before the election.” If that isn’t the perfect encapsulation of the Senate Democrats’ complete political cowardice and abdication of responsibility, I don’t know what is.

The ranking member on the Senate Budget Committee Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) blasted the move in a written statement:

Chairman Conrad’s stunning announcement, forced on him by his party, is a defining moment in 2012 and a national embarrassment for a Senate majority that is unable to meet the great challenge of our time.
It’s been 1,084 days since the last time the Senate’s Democrat majority passed a budget plan, despite a simple majority threshold for passage. Our nation has never needed a budget more, and, as a party, Senate Democrats haven’t produced a plan for three years or conducted a committee mark-up for two. Today Chairman Conrad announced that the promised mark-up was effectively being cancelled — there will only be opening statements, no amendments or votes — following an apparent uprising from the Senate Democrat Conference that remains unwilling and unable to work on a budget plan. They have forfeited their claim on leadership. Majority Leader Reid’s unflinching decree that the Senate will not pass a budget reveals a party in Washington incapable of addressing the colossal spending and debt that threatens our nation with decline.
It is clear that, in addition to being unable and unwilling to publicly defend a plan of any kind, Senate Democrats also did not want to conduct a mark-up because they would have been compelled to cast votes on and defend the president’s fiscally ruinous health law that they supported, as well as the widespread taxpayer abuse and waste exemplified by the GSA. . . . Never in recent memory has a majority party in Washington been more inadequate to meet the great challenge of our time than Senate Democrats now leading this chamber

I wonder exactly what will be the argument for Senate Democrats seeking to be returned to office and to retain the Senate majority. Give us another chance to avoid doing our job. Hmm, doesn’t quite sing, does it? We’ve gotten along this long without a budget, haven’t we? Not all that compelling, I think.

The Senate Democrats are only marginally worse than the president. He actually has sent documents labeled “budget” up to the Hill each year. But, he hasn’t worked to pass it. Certainly it was voted down unanimously in the House this year. And, it’s true, Obama never put forth in a budget document a serious plan to address our fiscal mess by taking our annual deficit below a trillion dollars, reforming the tax code or reforming Medicaid or Social Security. And, to be candid, he has rejected without any serious consideration a bipartisan attempt (Wyden-Ryan) to reform Medicare. But he did go to the trouble of putting in writing what he wants, and thereby allowing the voters to judge whether his plan or an alternative (e.g. Mitt Romney’s, the House Republican budget) is the better approach.

But not the Senate Democrats. They vote, “We’d prefer not to say.” If that is what the voters are looking for, then they should return Democrats seeking six more years and vote in challengers who presumably will keep Reid as their leader.

Obama’s spinners say that the president put forth whatever he put forth in the ”grand bargain” negotiations with Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio). But he pulled the rug out from under his own negotiations. And he’s never revealed in any detail (assuming there was detail) what was on the table. Why not?

Well, it’s so much easier to simply point the finger at Republicans, accuse them of destroying entitlements and tell voters the solution is raising taxes on the rich. Except there isn’t enough money from the rich to keep pace with all the spending. Like the Senate Democrats, Obama, I guess, will tell us what he really wants to do, after the election.

By  |  08:30 AM ET, 04/18/2012

Categories:  Budget, 2012 campaign

 
Read what others are saying
     

    © 2011 The Washington Post Company