Having failed to get a budget passed in the two preceding years, Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) announced on Friday that he wouldn’t push a budget this year, either, and claimed that last year’s debt -ceiling deal was sufficient. “We do not need to bring a budget to the floor this year,” he said. “It’s done, we don’t need to do it.”
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), the ranking member on the Senate Budget Committee, was having none of it. He put out a toughly worded statement that read:
It’s been more than 1,000 days since Senate Democrats have offered a budget plan to the American people. Now, once again, the Senate’s ineffectual Democrat majority balks at the task of leadership. Majority Leader Reid is denying the American people the opportunity to become engaged in the debate about the nation’s fiscal future and the difficult choices we face. He obviously continues in his belief that it would be politically foolish for his members to go on record in support of any long-term vision. But by refusing to lay out a budget plan for public examination — a fact no one can deny — the Democrat Senate has forfeited the high privilege to lead this chamber. If Sen. Reid and his members stand by this announcement, it means that the American people will go through yet another year of crisis without Senate Democrats unveiling and standing behind a financial plan for our future.
Budget Control Act spending caps, crafted behind closed doors and rushed to passage at the 11th hour under threat of panic, do not even approach the definition of the budget process that the law requires. They are not in any way or any sense a Senate Democrat budget plan. There is no argument that can be made that these caps are a long-term vision for this country — not on taxes, not on entitlements, not on spending, not on debt. Presumably, this obvious fact is why Chairman [Kent] Conrad has said he will mark up a budget in our Committee. However, this process will be eviscerated if Sen. Reid refuses to allow a budget resolution to come to the floor.
I will continue to insist that the public process be carried out and that Senate Democrats bring an actual budget resolution to the Senate floor.
On this one, the Republicans plainly have the facts on their side. Before Reid’s latest dodge, Polifact looked at a statement by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) chastising the Senate for failing to pass a budget in more than 1,000 days:
Neither the House of Representatives nor the Senate adopted a fiscal 2011 budget resolution, but the Republican-controlled House approved a fiscal 2012 budget resolution.
That gave Ryan more fuel for blasting the Senate Democrats for not adopting one.
The lack of budget resolutions contributed to delays in appropriations to government agencies, said Steve Ellis, a budget expert with Taxpayers for Common Sense, a nonpartisan group that analyzes federal spending.
Ellis said no spending bills were approved for fiscal 2011 until after the fiscal year started in October 2010; the remainder weren’t approved until April 2011, halfway into the fiscal year. For fiscal 2012, final spending bills weren’t adopted until just before Christmas 2011, nearly three months into the fiscal year, he said.
So, when it lacks a budget for direction, Congress still has the power to spend money and keep government operating, but the process can get mucked up. . . .
From Ryan’s perspective, as he said in a statement in July 2011, Congress “has a moral — and legal — obligation to propose and pass budgets that tackle our generation’s greatest challenge.” He added that “America’s job creators want certainty and confidence in the economy — which requires a credible plan to cut spending, prevent future tax hikes, and reassure our creditors that we’re restoring fiscal discipline.”
This latest scuffle is indicative of the Democrats’ entire approach to the debt and our fiscal train wreck — kick the can down the road, show no leadership, put the government on automatic pilot and hope the voters aren’t angered by their refusal to do their job. What then is the argument for Democrats to retain the majority in the Senate? (We haven’t done our job in three years, so keep us in charge!)
The president is partially right about the do-nothing Congress. The Senate at least hasn’t passed a budget or tried to tackle entitlement reform. Senate Democratic incumbents should be forced to answer why, given that record, they should be given six more years.