Donald Lambro

Why? In part, because of deep divisions in their ranks over how much to cut spending, and whether to cut it all -- but also because they believe that by playing political games with the budget process, they can make the Republicans look cruel and heartless and bolster their prospects in year’s elections.

The story behind the Democratic leadership’s decision to duck its responsbility to tackle the nation’s fiscal crisis hasn’t got very much attention in the national news media. A brief story appeared in the Washington Post last week under the headline, “Senate Democrats keep budget close to the vest.”

Conrad’s excuse is that he wants to give a bipartisan group of senators a chance to produce an agreement. But Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, a key Republican budget-cutter who has earned the knickname, “Dr. No,” has dropped out the group known as the Gang of Six because of its inability reach an agreement on getting control of Medicare’s unsustainably rising costs.

Coburn says he is “on sabbatical” from the Gang of Six, but he remains doubtful that anything can come from fruitless negotiations over soaring entitlements that are going to break the bank when tens of millions baby boomers sign up for Social Security and Medicare.

Meantime, separate negotiations are being led by Vice President Joe Biden over a plan that would reduce borrowing by $4 trillion over 10 years. But half those savings would come from higher taxes that would be a nonstarter with Republicans who have made it clear that higher taxes are off the table.

Getting control of spending and gradually reducing borrowing are not insoluable problems. They just require political will and most of all leadership which is missing in Washington -- from President Obama who has kept his distance from the battle to the Senate Democrats who see this as a political opportunity, not a solemn responsbility to “preserve and protect” our country at a time of great economic peril.

Harry Reid’s attempt at political gamemanship in the midst of this emerging fiscal train wreck is a disgrace. What America needs right now is a tough-as-nails budget that reins in spending and borrowing and lowers taxes to boost job creation and much stronger economic growth.

But as long as Reid and his gang of big spenders run the Senate, we will continue to see a spendthrift government that is spiraling ever deeper into unfathomable debt.

Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.