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SESSIONS: Senate’s scofflaw Democrats
It’s been three years since majority produced a legally required budget
Question of the Day
This Sunday marks exactly three years since the Democratic majority in the Senate last passed a budget, on April 29, 2009. During that time, the federal government has spent $10.4 trillion and added another $4.5 trillion to our total debt.
Adopting a budget is not optional. It is required by law. Under the 1974 Congressional Budget Act, the Senate must move a budget out of the Budget Committee by April 1 of every year and adopt a budget resolution on the floor by April 15.
The House has completed its budget work each of the past two years since the GOP attained a majority in that chamber. By contrast, the Democratic Senate is continuing its open defiance of budget law for the third year in a row.
The Senate majority can bring a budget to the floor anytime it wishes and pass it with just 51 votes. It cannot be filibustered. Yet in 2010, with a 60-vote majority, Senate Democrats chose to keep their own committee-passed budget from receiving a vote in the full Senate. In 2011, Majority Leader Harry Reid said it would be "foolish" for his party to do a budget, so it never even wrote one. In 2012, just last week, Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad was forced by his own majority to cancel what would have been the first committee votes on a budget resolution in more than two years.
As expert after expert tells us, our nation is on a dangerously unsustainable path. Our per-person debt is worse than that of Greece. The budget offered by President Obama, which received zero votes from either party, would bring the fifth straight trillion-dollar deficit next year and would increase spending 62 percent over the next 10 years. If we continue down this path, disaster is not merely probable but inevitable.
So why have Senate Democrats refused to lay out a budget - their own financial plan for our future?
Last year, behind closed doors, Senate Democrats began drafting a budget resolution. But they were unable to develop a budget that they could unite behind and publicly defend. So the plan was scrapped, never made public, and a committee meeting on the budget was never held.
There is another motivation that explains the Senate majority's dereliction. Under Senate rules, if a budget is opened for consideration on the Senate floor, it begins a period of extensive amendment and debate. Senators would be forced to face public accountability for how much they wish to tax and spend.
Mr. Reid's determination to keep a budget off the floor is part of a deliberate strategy to shield his members from tough votes and electoral risk - at the expense of duty, law and the American people.
By refusing to do a budget for three straight years - during a time of financial danger - the Senate's Democratic majority has proved itself unworthy to lead.
The Democrats' resolve not to produce a concrete budget plan exemplifies a Washington culture that does not respect taxpayer dollars. Considering the trillions involved, this reckless behavior is, in a real sense, worse than the outrageous conduct of the government workers throwing lavish parties in Las Vegas at taxpayer expense.
Mr. Obama must exercise managerial discipline. He must demand that his Senate majority produce a detailed, long-term budget plan to put this country on a sound path. Until that happens, Mr. Obama and Senate Democrats have no business calling on the American people to pay one more dime in new taxes.
Washington doesn't need a taxpayer bailout. Washington needs a budget.
Sen. Jeff Sessions, Alabama Republican, is ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee.
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