More evasive shenanigans in the Senate

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced this evening the Senate will meet in a pro forma session next week, rather than adjourn for recess. The move enables Reid to evade budget-related pressure.

Earlier today, nearly every Republican senator, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), sent a letter to Reid to remind him of the Senate’s responsibility to at least mark up a budget resolution, which the Senate Budget Committee has not done, and to request that Reid delay the recess until Senate Democrats produce a substantive budget proposal. The letter stated:

[T]he Senate plans to adjourn for a week-long recess on Friday to coincide with Memorial Day, a holiday that honors our men and women in uniform. As our service members put their lives on the line to defend this nation, surely the least Congress can do is produce a plan to confront the debt that is placing the whole country at risk. House Republicans put forward just such a budget weeks ago—a plan for prosperity to overcome this nation’s dangerously rising debt, cut wasteful Washington spending, and make our economy more competitive.

But, in this time of economic danger, the Senate continues to stonewall any and all action on a FY2012 budget. For this reason, we respectfully request that you delay any adjournment of this body until you or members of your party in the Senate bring forward a budget resolution and schedule a meeting of the Budget Committee—a power which resides solely with the majority—to work on that budget.

Clearly, Reid had no intention of delaying the recess to work on the budget. But why a pro forma session? Had Reid asked for unanimous consent to adjourn, Republicans would have objected, which would have put the recess to a vote. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), ranking member on the Senate Budget Committee, promised that. But the 53 Democrats in the Senate could still have successfully voted to adjourn. Either Reid wanted to shield himself and his Democratic colleagues from a difficult vote that would have revealed the extent of their budget apathy — or he feared a few Democrats would break with the party and vote to stay in session. Either way, the decision seems to disregard the gravity of the looming budget crisis.

Or, as Sessions put it, “The Majority Leader’s decision not to bring adjournment to a vote — but instead to hold a series of pro forma sessions — is a stark admission that the Democrat Senate cannot justify to the American people its unwillingness to work on a budget.”

At least Reid’s decision to move to a pro forma session has one undeniable upside: No recess appointments.