Senate Democrats have failed to pass a budget for 825 days and counting, violating the 1974 Budget Act that requires an annual budget.
Now, thanks to the provisions of the debt ceiling deal, they can get away with extending their irresponsibility streak through the next election and into 2013. Senate Democrats will now go fully four years without passing a budget.
Every single Senate Democrat voted against President Obama’s budget, and every single Senate Democrat voted against the House-passed budget authored by Rep. Paul Ryan. They refuse to support any of the plans on the table, and they refuse to tell the American people what they stand for. It is the ultimate in political cowardice – in a tough situation, attack everything and stand for nothing.
In early 2010, House Democrats floated a back-door procedural trick to move Obama’s health care bill forward called "deem-and-pass." It was a scheme to enact the Senate-passed version of the bill indirectly as a way to minimize political responsibility for the vote. It was rejected by the American people, and they instead took responsibility for imposing a takeover of health care by voting for it directly. Many then lost their jobs for that vote.
Now the "deeming" trick is back in a different form. The debt ceiling deal passed this week deems budgetary levels passed for Senate purposes as if they had adopted a budget. Not just for this year, but for next year. That means the Senate Democrats streak of days without a budget will jump to somewhere north of 1,400 days. In fact, the next time the Senate passes a budget the Democrats may not even be in the majority any more, depending on what happens in the 2012 elections.
Keith Hennessey, a former top Bush economic official who strongly supports the debt ceiling deal, called this trick “process abuse, in which Senate Democrats are avoiding taking responsibility for proposing solutions to America’s biggest economic policy problems.”
Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) claims to have a budget that he refuses to let the public see. And he has promised to propose a budget next year also, even though it has already been deemed under the debt ceiling deal. But Conrad, unable to defend his failure of leadership to voters back home in North Dakota, is retiring and therefore largely insulated from public opinion.
Now it is incumbent upon the American people not to allow this egregious attempt to avoid taking responsibility to work. While many Senate Democrats are retiring to avoid facing voters, many others will stand for re-election. Citizens need to demand they tell us where they stand on the budget now. If they continue to run and hide that needs to be converted from political strength to weakness through exposure and ridicule.
Phil Kerpen is vice president for policy at Americans for Prosperity and the author of the forthcoming book on Obama’s regulatory agenda, “Democracy Denied” (BenBella Books, October 2011).