Republicans have taken great pains to continually refer to the number of days since Senate Democrats have produced a budget, now at Day 769 and counting. Democrats have begun to chafe at Harry Reid’s strategy of attempting to grab a world record for punting, especially since Democrats have to argue in next year’s elections for voters to trust them with leadership for the next two years. Politico reports on building dissatisfaction with leadership among the majority caucus:
A growing number of Senate Democrats are anxious about the lack of a Democratic budget and the unusually slow legislative agenda, creating another headache for Majority Leader Harry Reid as he tries to protect his majority ahead of a daunting election year.
“On the budget front, I’m not a happy camper around here,” California Sen. Dianne Feinstein told POLITICO. “I think we need to have a budget that we stand by.”
“In the states, you can’t do this in the states — you’ve got to move,” said West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, a former governor up for reelection next year. “We’re hoping we will.”
Not having a budget, Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor said, “makes it harder to do things that we just need to do — there are people talking about an education bill, a highway bill — a lot of other things you just don’t know how much you have to spend.”
It’s more than just a practical problem — it’s a big political problem for Democrats attempting to defend 23 seats in 2012. Republicans are widely expected to win enough seats in the next cycle to take control of the Senate in the 113th Session of Congress, but Democrats have tried to paint the GOP as irresponsible on protecting popular entitlement programs through their attempts to solve the budget deficit.
The problem is that while Senate Democrats talk about irresponsibility, they are modeling even worse behavior. The GOP gave Democrats a target by offering a budget plan in the House and passing it, which the Senate rejected without producing a better plan — or any plan. Unlike in the House, Democrats are not in a powerless minority in the Senate. Harry Reid controls the floor in the upper chamber, and they have a Democrat in the White House as well. Yet despite the fact that Democrats already have leadership on Capitol Hill in two of the three power positions, Reid is refusing to provide any solutions to the one piece of Congressional business that interests voters the most: federal spending.
Right now, Democrats are saying that they need to defer to Joe Biden on the budget. That’s hardly taking leadership, as the Vice President has no formal role in the budgeting process. The longer Reid and the Democrats go without producing a budget proposal, the more they appear to willingly abdicate their claim to leadership — and the more they invite voters to elect people who want to lead rather than hide behind the VP.