Republicans promised to restore order to a dysfunctional Congress in the midterm elections. Yesterday, they delivered on that campaign promise, passing the first regular-order budget framework since 2009. It didn’t come easy, though:
The 51-48 vote capped weeks of work by Republican leaders in the House and Senate, who shepherded the blueprint through a messy debate over defense spending that at times threatened to split their conferences. …
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had ripped Democrats for years over their failure to pass a budget, and said Tuesday’s vote shows his GOP majority is getting the Senate working again.
“No budget will ever be perfect, but this is a budget that sensibly addresses the concerns of many different members. It reflects honest compromise from many different members with many different priorities,” the Kentucky Republican said on the Senate floor.
The budget resolution does not carry the force of law, but structures the broad limits of spending for appropriations Congress will pass later. Barack Obama already has threatened to veto two of the twelve that Congress will produce, and likely will veto at least some of the dozen in order to flex his own muscle in the budget process. The Hill takes a pessimistic view of this tension, warning Republicans that they didn’t do so well in the last shutdown standoff:
That could leave Congress facing a new government shutdown fight in September, with a deadline of Oct. 1 for passing some kind of legislation to keep the government funded.
A shutdown fight would be risky for both sides, but would be particularly perilous for Republicans as they seek to retain control of Congress and win back the White House. The last shutdown fight sent the GOP’s poll numbers to historic lows, though the party’s brand recovered ahead of a historic midterm elections triumph.
Er … not so fast. The circumstances of the 2013 standoff were markedly different. In that fight, Republicans were blocking spending bills rather than passing them, and picking a fight they couldn’t win over ObamaCare. It was quixotic in every sense, and the political damage related to the obstruction of the budgeting process.
This time around, the shoe will be on the other foot. Not only will Republicans have produced a budget and its appropriations, it will have done so while allowing Democrats to participate in the process, especially in the Senate. If Obama simply starts vetoing everything that comes out of the first regular-order budget process of his presidency since his first year, it will be Obama who sends the country back to the world of fiscal cliffs and budgetary brinksmanship.
The issue won’t be whether Republicans can govern at that point — it will be the final revelation to voters that it was Obama and the Democrats who screwed up the process since 2009.
Senator Roger Wicker said voters would have to decide whether a path to balancing the federal budget was worth supporting:
Voters also will have the opportunity to choose responsible governance over irresponsible obstructionism. They sent Republicans to run Congress, the GOP will remind them all through 2016, and Republicans delivered. Will they want a return to the insanity of the Harry Reid/Nancy Pelosi years? Don’t bet that a standoff this time will hit the GOP hardest.
Update: Democrats did pass a budget resolution in 2009 for FY2010, in part because they needed to have one for the ObamaCare bill. I’ve fixed the headline and a couple of references in the post, and thanks to Steve Eggleston for the correction.