It’s been more than 1,000 days since the Senate has passed a budget, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is unconcerned. In fact, he says he has no plans to bring a budget to the floor in 2012, either. He argues the 2012 budget is already done because last summer’s debt-ceiling deal included a few spending caps. Essentially, Reid wonders: Why do we need a long-term spending plan when we can stumble into some spending caps here and there? The Hill was first to this story:
“We do not need to bring a budget to the floor this year — it’s done, we don’t need to do it,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told reporters on Friday, echoing previous statements from his office.
Reid and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) argued that the debt-limit agreement in August directs spending for the next year and that Senate Appropriations Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) has already asked the heads of the subcommittees to write their bills for fiscal 2013.
Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) has said he would probably mark up a budget resolution this year to appease ranking member Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), but Reid said he didn’t expect any floor action on any measure produced by the panel. …
Schumer said it is a “total falsity” for Republicans to say that Democrats haven’t passed the budget: “we passed it on Aug. 2.”
“They’re attacking us because they have nothing better to do,” Reid said. “They need something else to talk about.”
If what Reid and Schumer are arguing is that the Senate doesn’t need to pass a formal budget resolution to enable the government to spend taxpayer money irresponsibly, then they’re right. For the past couple years, while the Senate Budget Democrats have sat on their hands, failing to submit a budget resolution to the full Senate, the Senate Appropriations Committee has still authorized ungodly amounts of discretionary spending.
But if what Reid and Schumer are saying is that they’ve followed the law and submitted a budget resolution, then they’re flat-out wrong. The Congressional Budget Act requires the president to submit a budget to Congress by Feb. 1 every year. The Senate Budget Committee is to report a budget resolution to the full Senate by April 1. The House and Senate are to reach agreement on a concurrent budget resolution by April 15. Senate Budget Democrats haven’t submitted a budget since 2009.
Here’s why it matters: The Appropriations Committee determines levels of discretionary spending. Approps don’t touch mandatory spending. But mandatory spending constitutes about 60 percent of all federal spending — and mandatory programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security drive our deficits and debt. Without the imposition of budget discipline, these programs grow on autopilot.
By never submitting a budget, enacting a few discretionary spending caps as a part of the Budget Control Act (a.k.a. the debt ceiling deal) and punting to the Super Committee that also punted on entitlement reform, Democrats avoid any difficult discussion of how to ensure the solvency of our entitlement programs. With no plan of their own on the table, they’re free to shoot down anything Republicans propose.
It’s no secret why no one wants to touch entitlements — but it is still the shame of Washington that nobody will.