Donald Lambro

WASHINGTON - Senate Democrats were expected to bring up the House Republicans’ 2012 budget plan for a vote this week, but not their own plan which remains under lock and key.

It’s not because the Democrats want to be magnanimous and give the GOP plan full consideration as the basis for negotiations on a bipartisan compromise. No, they intend to demagogue it to death, focusing almost entirely on its provision to slowly replace Medicare with a government-subsidized health care voucher plan for seniors -- a privatization idea Democrats believe will prove fatal to dozens of vulnerable Republicans in next year’s elections.

But there are other reasons why Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will not be offering the Democrats’ own budget proposal. They don’t have one. Or, at least, one they want to reveal to the public. That’s locked away in Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad’s safe at a time when President Obama’s administration is running a $1.6 trillion budget deficit, the third in a string a trillion dollar deficits that will add more than $10 trillion to an already monstrous $14.3 trillion national debt over this decade.

Next to the lackluster economy and a persistently high 9 percent unemployment rate, runaway spending and debt remain one of the voters’ greatest concerns. But the Democrats’ strategy right now is not to grab the deficit by the horns and wrestle it into submission. It is to play political games with the issue, and with the American people, to help the Democrats win back control of the House and rebuild their dwindling forces in the Senate.

And don’t expect to see the Democrats’ secret budget anytime soon, if there is one. Indeed, Reid has told reporters that “There is no need to have a Democratic budget in my opinion. It would be foolish for us to do a budget at this stage.”

Preparing an annual budget blueprint is the No. 1 job of Congress. The 2012 fiscal year begins Oct. 1. It has only four months to adopt a budget plan and put it into effect through the laborious appropriations process. The Democrats’ message: Not to worry. We don’t need a budget right now. Let the spending flow.

But if there was ever a time in our history when our government needed an iron-clad budget to stop runaway from pushing the U.S. economy over the cliff, that time is now.

The Democrats did not pass a budget in the last Congress, even when they had huge majorities in the House and Senate, and they haven’t been unable to produce a budget plan this year, either.

Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.