Beltway budget dance continues

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Since 2009, Americans of all stripes have called for the Senate to pass a budget, in line with existing law and the simple duties of elected officials. For nearly four years, Senate Majority Leader Reid (D-NV) refused to let this happen.

Earlier this year, Senator Reid finally allowed the budget process to proceed. The Senate subsequently passed a budget proposal that increased spending and raised taxes. This was in sharp contrast to the House’s budget proposal, which balances in 10 years. Both are inferior to what the nation needs, but the House budget is a more sustainable choice.

Since March, when both budgets passed their respective chambers, there has been no real progress on getting a budget together for the 2014 fiscal year. The reasons for this are many:

First and foremost, Senate Democrats are asking for “unanimous consent” for a conference. However, this is a process that limits the ability of Republican Senators to attempt to give instructions to conferees. Unlike normal procedure, as outlined in the Congressional Budget Act, unanimous consent is also subject to a filibuster – something Senate Republicans have regularly engaged in for the last several years. However, if Senate Democrats wanted to stop political posturing, they could follow standard procedure and get a conference set up between the House and Senate relatively quickly.

Speaking of posturing, the Senate has yet to pass one appropriations bill. There are a dozen such bills in each chamber that must be passed to get a budget in place, yet the Senate has moved forward on none. Their 17 requests for a conference discussion have fallen on deaf ears in the House, which has passed four appropriations bills.

Third, the Democratic budget spends above what sequestration allows, which violates existing law.

Finally, the Senate and House bills are $91 billion apart on spending. On the one hand, this is a lot of money in real terms – $292 per American. On the flip side, however, it’s only about $2.4% of what the federal government will spend in the 2013 fiscal year. Surely Senate Democrats can find a way to contract 2.4% of the federal budget.

In other words, Senate Democrats are not serious about getting bills passed to fund the federal government. Republicans are probably being a bit stubborn on “normal order,” since it prevents the high-spending Democratic budget from getting to conference, but that’s a lot better than spending more and raising taxes.

Back in April, two GOP aides told Tea Party Patriots their party leadership is pushing for a way to get to conference. However, according to one of the aides, the problem is not having “a framework” in place “for constructive negotiations.” House Budget Committee spokesperson Will Allison agrees, telling Tea Party Patriots last week that “House Republicans are working to forge a budget agreement with Senate Democrats. They want to take more from hardworking taxpayers to spend more in Washington. We want to work with them to cut spending, balance the budget, and grow the economy. But we haven’t worked out our differences yet.”

And so the Beltway Budget Dance continue – at the expense of the nation.