As the press hyperventilates over the threat of a government shutdown and pushes the last-minute-hero meme coming from the White House, here’s something to keep in mind that I haven’t seen discussed much in the last few weeks. Where, exactly, is the Senate budget?
So far, we have heard plenty about the radical Republicans and their demand to defund Planned Parenthood as the major stumbling blocks to getting a budget deal done. This leaves out at least half of the story. The House passed a full-year budget weeks ago, HR1, which was rejected by the Senate on the same day that a Democratic-leadership-approved budget also failed — by a wider margin than the GOP plan.
Normally, when a House plan fails in the Senate, the Senate passes its own budget plan in response. The two chambers then form a conference committee to reach a compromise that produces a budget. However, this process requires that the Senate actually approve a budget on its own. Since voting down HR1 and the Democratic plan, the Senate hasn’t done anything — which means it has gone more than 18 months without approving a budget of some kind.
Instead of negotiating on a bipartisan basis in conference, the Senate’s failure has the Democrats and Barack Obama grandstanding in public, despite their party’s refusal to budget at all. The media has allowed this to continue rather than ask why the Senate just doesn’t pass a budget and launch a conference committee to iron out the differences. The result is this public kabuki dance in which the one chamber of Congress that actually produced a budget — and another continuing resolution — gets blamed for the lack of a budget as funding runs out, rather than the chamber that hasn’t done its job for more than 18 months.