One of the presumed virtues of single-party governance in Washington is efficiency. With one party in charge, especially with large majorities in both chambers of Congress, the lack of checks and balances from inter-party tension should at least result in getting more accomplished, especially on budgeting issues. However, despite having historically large majorities, Politico reports that Democrats will limp into an early recess with a “trifecta tribute to legislative collapse”:
Eager to send Congress home, Democrats cleared the first Senate hurdles Tuesday toward enacting a stopgap spending bill that would keep the government operating through Dec. 3 with only modest adjustments for foreign policy appropriations.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who holds most of the cards, is cooperating, but the gaping holes left in the budget process are the worst since Republicans briefly shut down the government in the mid-’90s.
Bear in mind that the 1995 shutdown of the government came during a budget battle between a Democratic President and a Republican-controlled Congress. In this case, it’s a Democratic Congress that can’t produce a budget, and barely can get a continuing resolution to pass as the fiscal year begins on Thursday.
Democrats want to blame Republicans for this debacle, but Republicans have little say in the issue. Democrats, with 59 seats, have the greatest Senate majority in more than 30 years, going back to the 1977-79 session, where Democrats controlled 61 seats in the upper chamber. Republicans managed to pass budgets on time during their entire six-year run of controlling both Congress and the White House from 2001-6 with much smaller majorities, even though in 2001 and 2002 the Senate actually switched hands a couple of times.
David Rogers also notes that the OMB nominee is getting his confirmation delayed by a hold from a Democratic Senator, Mary Landrieu:
With a new fiscal year beginning Friday, Oct. 1, no budget resolution has been approved, none of the 12 annual spending bills is even close to passage in Congress and no budget director is in place because of a hold imposed by one Senate Democrat.
It’s a trifecta tribute to legislative collapse — so much so that despairing Democratic aides darkly joke that it’s a plot to turn over the keys to the executive-driven deficit commission created by President Barack Obama earlier this year. That panel is to report its own budget recommendations Dec. 1 — just days before the stopgap spending bill runs out. And Congress is setting itself up for what could be a major fight over spending and tax policy in the immediate aftermath of the elections.
The attempt to shift responsibility for governance to the deficit commission is no joke. That is its raison d’être — to give Democrats a fig leaf of deniability when it comes to cutting spending, raising taxes, and/or fundamentally altering Social Security. It’s the one-armed man defense: I didn’t do it — the meanie deficit commission made us impose those policies! After a single season of having a total grip on power, the Democrats have utterly dissipated their intellectual capacity and their credibility to govern. They’ve even dissipated their desire to govern, preferring to hand off the job to a panel of elites that will dictate terms to them — and us.