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A Thousand Days of Failure

Senate Democrats have refused to propose a budget for three years.

by
Roger Morse

Bio

January 24, 2012 - 12:00 am

One thousand days is long enough to get a lot done.  An elephant needs only about two-thirds of that time for a full-term pregnancy. In the past 1,000 days, the Egyptians figured out how to overthrow their government.  The Libyans figured out how to overthrow their dictator.  Theoretically, man could travel to Mars and back in that time.

However, the U.S. Senate has failed to figure out how to propose and pass a budget for this country as required by law in that time.

It is only fitting that President Obama will deliver his State of the Union address on January 24, which will mark 1,000 days since the Senate last complied with the budget law.

The Congressional Budget Act of 1974 (CBA) is quite clear that passing a budget is not optional. It states, “On or before April 15 of each year, the Congress shall complete action on a concurrent resolution on the budget for the fiscal year beginning on October 1 of such year.”

Additionally, the CBA requires details that go far beyond the many little budget deals that kick the can down the road every few weeks or months. Among the details:

The concurrent [budget] resolution shall set forth appropriate levels for the fiscal year beginning on October 1 of such year and for at least each of the 4 ensuing fiscal years for the following -

(1) totals of new budget authority and outlays;

(2) total Federal revenues and the amount, if any, by which the aggregate level of Federal revenues should be increased or decreased by bills and resolutions to be reported by the appropriate committees;

(3) the surplus or deficit in the budget;

(4) new budget authority and outlays for each major functional category, based on allocations of the total levels set forth pursuant to paragraph (1);

(5) the public debt;

The CBA also requires a report to be filed with the budget resolution.

The report accompanying the [budget] resolution shall include -

(A) a comparison of the levels of total new budget authority, total outlays, total revenues, and the surplus or deficit for each fiscal year set forth in the resolution with those requested in the budget submitted by the President;

(B) with respect to each major functional category, an estimate of total new budget authority and total outlays, with the estimates divided between discretionary and mandatory amounts;

(C) the economic assumptions that underlie each of the matters set forth in the resolution and any alternative economic assumptions and objectives the committee considered;

(D) information, data, and comparisons indicating the manner in which, and the basis on which, the committee determined each of the matters set forth in the resolution;

(E) the estimated levels of tax expenditures (the tax expenditures budget) by major items and functional categories for the President’s budget and in the resolution; and

(F) [committee] allocations described in section 633(a) of this title.

And yet, the Senate has ignored the law for 1,000 days. The problem is that there is no penalty in this law for breaking it.

This is a failure of leadership.  Former House Democrat Majority Leader Steny Hoyer stated that enacting a budget is “the most basic responsibility of governing.”

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) said recently, “There is no excuse. I would have been impeached as governor.”  He went on to ask his Senate colleagues if anyone had a plan.  Sadly, he could not find any senator within the Democrat Party willing to put forth a detailed budget.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) gives a standard answer that Republicans have obstructed the ability of the Senate to act. He apparently is hoping that Americans forget the fact that Democrats had a 60-vote majority until 2011 and could have passed anything over the objections of Senate Republicans.

The Senate Democrats voted against the budget resolutions passed by the House. The Senate Democrats voted against President Obama’s budget. What they have refused to do for 1,000 days is propose any budget of their own.

The real reason for not producing a budget is that the Senate Democrats are terrified of letting the public know what they stand for.  They want to only agree to a compromise that Republicans agree to also.  That way the blame can be shared for the pain that will result from only spending money that we can afford.

Granted, assembling a budget for consideration by the Senate is complex.  Senators created a special standing committee to perform the job.  The Senate Budget Committee spends about $6 million each year in order to get the job done.  The problem is that they have produced no work product in almost 3 years.  Does anyone know why we are paying for this committee to do no work?

Sen. Manchin pointed out that the federal government is currently spending more than $1 trillion more than we are collecting this year in revenues.  Why not start balancing the budget by eliminating the committee that is not doing the job taxpayers are paying for?

If Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND) refuse to follow the law and produce a budget this year, the least they could do is eliminate the Senate Budget Committee and stop wasting taxpayer money.

Roger Morse is a fellow with Citizens Against Government Waste.
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