The primary responsibility of Congress under the Constitution is to pass a budget for the federal government. The Democrats have a 77-seat majority in the House and an 18-seat majority in the Senate, where filibusters won’t apply anyway on budgetary matters. Barack Obama’s presidency gives them a clear path to passing whatever budget Democrats desire for FY2011. And so, obviously, all of this has proven too much of a hurdle for Democrats to overcome, as Steny Hoyer admitted today:
Majority Leader Steny Hoyer made official Tuesday morning what most insiders have known for months: Congress won’t do a budget this year.
Instead, Democrats are pushing an alternative route that falls well short of the more rigorous annual budget resolution — a short-term resolution that will call for discretionary spending lower than in President Barack Obama’s fiscal 2011 budget. But he said Congress wouldn’t take longer-term budget action before hearing from Obama’s fiscal commission in December. Republicans have lambasted Democrats for not passing a budget resolution, saying that’s the first time it’s happened since 1976.
John Boehner wasted no time in blasting his counterparts across the aisle for dereliction of their first duty:
Republicans have already seized on the budgetary inaction. Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) sent out a mocking statement that said: “We regret to inform you that the congressional budget for fiscal year 2011 has been canceled due to Washington Democrats’ out-of-control spending spree.”
Debra Saunders notes that Democrats had defined such a failure in stark terms just four years ago:
“If you can’t budget, you can’t govern,” Rep. John Spratt Jr., D-S.C., proclaimed in 2006 when the House GOP leadership chose to dispense with passing a budget resolution.
Now that the Dems run the House, Spratt is chairman of its Budget Committee and the April 15 deadline for passing a budget resolution is a niggling detail, easily ignored. House Democrats have decided to not even try to pass a budget resolution before this fiscal year expires on Sept. 30 – and may well delay passage until after the November elections. …
But this year, Democrats won’t pass a budget resolution – which means there will be no limit on spending in next year’s 12 spending authorization bills. Democratic proposals to cut budgets by 2 percent won’t see a floor vote.
As the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget noted last month, “The very reasonable push to reduce some discretionary spending has left the House unable to agree on a plan.” In short, D.C. lawmakers cannot curb the growth in government spending to save their own necks.
“Saving their own necks” is what this is all about. The Democrats in Congress believe what Rep. Gerry Connolly told the LA Times, which is that no member of Congress ever lost an election because of a failure to pass a budget. They don’t want to be on the hook for the hard decisions that must come in FY2011, which is either to drastically reduce spending from the binge levels of the last three Democratic Congresses, or to raise taxes to cover it. Spending cuts won’t change voter perception of this Congress at this late date — and tax hikes will make it worse.
Spratt is right — a failure to budget is a failure to govern. Democrats seem intent on proving their unworthiness to lead Congress in even its most basic tasks. At the same time, their leadership wants voters to trust them to make the most personal of decisions in their health care, as well as believe that they can cool the planet and lower the sea level with punitive taxes on energy production and boondoggles in alternative energy. They can’t even govern themselves.