Byron York
"Let's see it," a frustrated Sen. Jeff Sessions said on the Senate floor recently. "Let's bring it forward."

By "it," Sessions meant a Democratic proposal for a 2012 federal budget. In recent days, Sessions, the top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, has been asking, pushing, pleading, cajoling and begging Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to put forward a Democratic plan. So far, Reid has steadfastly refused.

That's nothing new. The last time the Senate passed a budget was April 29, 2009, which was, if you are counting -- and Jeff Sessions is -- more than 760 days ago.

Passing a yearly budget for the federal government is a fundamental responsibility of Congress. Lawmakers do not have to spend their time naming post offices or passing healthcare reform. But they do have to pass a budget. In 2010, neither the House nor the Senate did so. It's not that members just didn't get around to it, which would have been scandalous enough. No, Reid and then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi feared that passing a budget would hurt their chances in the November midterm elections. So they did nothing and took a beating at the polls anyway.

Now Pelosi is out of the picture. But Reid is still at it. The Republican-controlled House has passed a budget, but Reid will not produce a Democratic spending proposal. And if Reid doesn't want to pass a budget, then a budget won't be passed; the majority leader controls what is and what is not considered in the Senate.

"There's no need to have a Democratic budget, in my opinion," Reid told the Los Angeles Times recently. "It would be foolish for us to do a budget at this stage." Instead, Reid wants to wait and see if the deficit-reduction meetings led by Vice President Biden bear any fruit. Before that, Reid wanted to wait for the Gang of Six -- now nearly defunct -- to come up with something. Sessions was appalled when he read Reid's words. "It was a fundamental statement that they're playing politics," Sessions said. "They don't think it's politically smart to produce a budget. They'd rather produce nothing and attack Paul Ryan and the Republicans and think they're going to gain politically by avoiding their fundamental statutory responsibility. It's pretty breathtaking to me."

Reid isn't alone. The chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, Kent Conrad, is also happy not to produce a budget. Not long ago, he told reporters that he planned to "defer" work on a 2012 budget indefinitely.

It drives Republicans crazy that Democrats could so brazenly abandon such a basic responsibility. Recently, all 47 GOP senators signed a letter to Reid in hopes of shaming the majority leader into action.


Byron York

Byron York, chief political correspondent for The Washington Examiner