The Democratic leadership of the House of Representatives announced that the House will not pass an actual budget resolution. This state of affairs provides the Republicans a very valuable argument that can be used with great effectiveness in various congressional districts to convince voters to vote a change in Congress. While this is indeed a sound tactical strategy, a strategic action plan must strengthen it.
The budget resolution is used by the Congress to impose budget discipline. According to the rules of the House of Representatives, the budget resolution normally identifies spending, revenue, borrowing, and economic goals. The budget resolution must contain spending limits for discretionary spending. These limits serve as an internal control on spending, a projection of annual budget deficits, and a statement of the aggregate federal debt. This resolution may also contain reconciliation instructions to make changes in the laws governing entitlement programs.
This year, however, the House of Representatives passed its so-called “budget enforcement resolution” which, according to House Budget Committee Chair Rep. John Spratt (D-SC), is the “functional equivalent of a traditional budget resolution.” According to House Majority Leader Hoyer, it is impossible for the current elected members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate to pass a realistic budget until the president’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform releases its findings post-election, in December. It is interesting to note that with the exception of 2010 the House has passed a budget resolution every year since 1974.
Why then, if the liberals could pass a “functional equivalent” so easily and without any Republican and some significant Democratic support, could they not as easily have passed a traditional budget resolution? We must focus on the limitations of this resolution. This “functional equivalent” lacks the more important safeguards and limits that would be contained in an actual budget resolution agreed to in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.
I would suggest that the reason for this odd legislative maneuver is strategic. If Republicans are successful in the November elections it will be because the American people reject the liberal Democratic agenda of the president and Congress. The people will have told their elected officials what they want them to do and that is actual change in direction of the government. So the Democrats are building a fallback position through the “functional equivalent” of the budget resolution. How?
If the Democrats think it is likely that the House will shift to Republican control and that their losses in the Senate will be significant, their main concern is how to retain the ability to influence or impede the next Congress. For the liberals to retain control over the political and legislative agenda the focus must shift from the House to the Senate, where the lack of a budget resolution becomes a strategic asset. The Democrats retain filibuster control over the legislative agenda in the Senate by tying Republican hands. No budget, no reconciliation denying the 2011 Congress the opportunity to amend “ObamaCare” or any other piece of problematic legislation with a fifty-one vote majority.
Thus the very process the Democrats used to pass legislation would be denied the Republicans to amend that same legislation.
To ensure that the will of the people would actually be implemented, the Republicans should filibuster all appropriations bills for FY2011, particularly the appropriations for the Department of Health and Human Services, until a budget resolution is passed. The Republicans in the Senate should force the passing of a short-term continuing resolution to ensure government operations continue at current levels until the Congress finds the political courage to pass a proper budget resolution and follow-on appropriations. This should be an easy political decision given the fact the only two of the twelve FY2011 appropriations bills are close to being voted on.
I would note that under a continuing resolution new programs normally may not be initiated, and as funds for “Obama Care” did not exist in FY2010, HHS and — more importantly — Dr. Berwick, the new un-confirmed administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Systems, would not be authorized to implement significant changes to current policies or programs or expend any monies not previously appropriated.
Then as House Majority Leader Hoyer has stated, the budget resolution could include any recommendations identified by the president’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform.