A Thousand Days of Failure

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.