- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 15, 2010

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

A few months after moving into the White House, President Obama promised to reduce the large deficit in 2010 and continue reducing it further in 2011. This promise was broken, and the deficit in 2010 is expected to be approximately $200 billion more than in 2009. This creates political danger for Democrats, as the party in power is reluctant to acknowledge its stewardship of worsening budget problems with midterm elections coming in November. As a result, congressional Democrats are shying away from a vote on this year’s budget resolution, causing chaos to the federal budgeting process.

Avoiding a budget resolution would be unprecedented. Since the Budget Act was passed in 1974, the resolutions have served as a blueprint for Congress to identify priorities and set parameters on budget proposals, which help ensure that spending doesn’t go even further out of control. In the absence of a resolution, congressional committees operate without any stipulated limits, which encourages freewheeling spending.

The passage of Obamacare gave Americans a lesson on one of the more obscure Senate rules: reconciliation, whereby differences in House and Senate versions of bills are reconciled. Without passing a budget resolution, Congress is not allowed to use reconciliation rules to cut the deficit if the House and Senate adopt different budgets. Without reconciliation rules, the filibuster can be used to stop the budget after the conference committee has ironed out differences in bills from the two chambers.

Not everyone in the current majority party is satisfied with how House Democrats are handling the budget. On Tuesday, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, North Dakota Democrat, said, “I think it is very important to have a budget blueprint to outline priorities where the country is going to spend its money, how we’re going to bring the deficit down.”

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, justifies not passing a budget resolution. He claims Democratic inaction is the fault of “deep debt” caused by the George W. Bush administration. This business of blaming President Bush for today’s deficit crisis doesn’t work 15 months into the Obama presidency. Mr. Obama’s $862 billion stimulus package and more than $400 billion supplemental spending bill had more than a little to do with the 2009 budget deficit of $1.4 trillion. Mr. Obama’s planned 2010 budget deficit is expected to surpass this record and hit $1.6 trillion. By comparison, all of Mr. Bush’s deficits from 2002 to 2008 - giving him no credit for the 2001 surplus - produced a combined deficit of $2.1 trillion.

The November elections are seven long months away. The skyrocketing deficit cannot be hidden under a barrel that long. But out of desperation to spare themselves embarrassment at the polls, Democrats are avoiding a vote on the budget resolution to stall bad news. Although politically expedient, this lack of leadership will make deficits larger in the future.

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