Now that the Gephardt Rule is gone, Senate Democrats don’t even bothering passing a budget at all. This is likely to be their fourth year in a row without one, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray has already suggested.
Sen. Jeff Sessions, the ranking Republican on the Budget Committee has suggested using the debt ceiling to force Democrats into the budget process. “I think it should be a firm principle that we should not raise the debt ceiling until we have a plan on how the new borrowed money will be spent,” Sessions recently told Byron York of the Washington Examiner.
If House leadership follows his lead, they can make an eminently reasonable case for the Senate to finally pass a budget as a precondition to any debt ceiling deal, enforced with an automatic reversion of the debt ceiling to its prior level if the Senate fails to pass a budget on time. The principle of requiring a budget before authorizing additional debt could then be incorporated into a reformed federal budget process to avoid future debt ceiling brinksmanship.
House Republicans could even consider offering to restore the Gephardt Rule in exchange for passage of process reforms that would make the budget legally binding, require a two-thirds supermajority to exceed budgeted spending levels, and use a sequester mechanism to keep overall appropriations in line with the budget. The idea would be to force Congress to set priorities and make tradeoffs in the context of a meaningful constraint – with the debt ceiling attached as leverage to force the House and Senate to come to agreement.
With a functioning budget process and intense political pressure from the American people – many of whom are now rallying with renewed energy around a demand for a balanced budget in the next decade – we could finally have a serious debate about how to get federal spending under control.
Phil Kerpen is president of American Commitment, a columnist on Fox News Opinion, chairman of the Internet Freedom Coalition, and author of the 2011 book Democracy Denied.
American Commitment is dedicated to restoring and protecting America’s core commitment to free markets, economic growth, Constitutionally-limited government, property rights, and individual freedom.
Washingtonian magazine named Mr. Kerpen to their "Guest List" in 2008 and The Hill newspaper named Mr. Kerpen a "Top Grassroots Lobbyist" in 2011.
Mr. Kerpen's op-eds have run in newspapers across the country and he is a frequent radio and television commentator on economic growth issues.
Prior to joining American Commitment, Mr. Kerpen served as vice president for policy at Americans for Prosperity. Mr. Kerpen has also previously worked as an analyst and researcher for the Free Enterprise Fund, the Club for Growth, and the Cato Institute.
A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., Mr. Kerpen currently resides in Washington, D.C. with his wife Joanna and their daughter Lilly.