As feverish, race-against-the-clock debt ceiling negotiations continue behind closed doors, Americans ought to bear in mind that there's a simpler, far more transparent way to address federal spending priorities and debt reduction. It's called "a budget mark-up." This may sound ludicrously obvious, but don't tell that to Senate Democrats. Indeed, the Democrat-controlled US Senate hasn't even proposed a budget in 810 days. Republicans, who control the House, have taken a different approach, fulfilling their statutory obligation by passing a budget. It reduces deficits by $4 Trillion over ten years and reforms two behemoth entitlement programs, Medicare and Medicaid, which everyone acknowledges are major drivers of the national debt. (Stay tuned to the Tipsheet for an in-depth exclusive interview with Paul Ryan about his Path to Prosperity later today).
As the House acts, the Senate remains silent. Its leader, Democrat Harry Reid, has shrugged off the concept of his chamber offering a fiscal blueprint, even labeling the idea "foolish." Democrats on the Senate Budget Committee claim they've patched together a broad outline (which reportedly includes $2.8 Trillion in tax increases and nearly $1 Trillion in defense cuts), but for now, this alleged budget remains a phantom. Senate Republicans have become increasingly exasperated with the Democrat majority's inaction, and a number of GOP Senators are resorting to parliamentary tactics to pressure their colleagues into obeying the law. As I reported last week, Sen. Jeff Sessions is spearheading an effort to raise 'point of order' objections to every single appropriations bill that reaches the Senate floor until Democrats introduce a tangible, score-able budget:
The ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, Jeff Sessions, has reached the end of his rope, and has announced his intention to obstruct any and all appropriations (ie, spending) bills in the Senate until an actual budget is offered. The details are a bit arcane, but basically, Sessions is pledging to raise a point of order every single time an appropriations bill is raised on the floor. This would require a 60-vote majority to set aside his objection, and the time he'd be granted to address point of order is unlimited. In other words, he could launch "old school" filibusters to rip Democrats for their failure to follow the law and produce a budget.
Sessions followed through on this threat on Friday, and was joined by a number of his Republican colleagues in a colloquy aimed at drawing attention to their opponents' sustained shirking. I'm told several GOP members will sustain this strategy this week. Watch as a coterie of Senate Republicans excoriates Democrats for their irresponsibility and, frankly, political cowardice:
Americans are increasingly fed up with Washington's paralysis and arrogance in the face of real and mounting threats to our fiscal well-being. Sadly, Harry Reid's Senate has emerged as ground zero of Beltway dysfunction.
UPDATE - The incomparable Mark Steyn plants his finger directly on Washington's clogged competence artery, declaring it "surreal and unnerving:"
There is something surreal and unnerving about the so-called “debt ceiling” negotiations staggering on in Washington. In the real world, negotiations on an increase in one’s debt limit are conducted between the borrower and the lender. Only in Washington is a debt increase negotiated between two groups of borrowers.
Actually, it’s more accurate to call them two groups of spenders. On the one side are Obama and the Democrats, who in a negotiation supposedly intended to reduce American indebtedness are (surprise!) proposing massive increasing in spending (an extra $33 billion for Pell Grants, for example). The Democrat position is: You guys always complain that we spend spend spend like there’s (what’s the phrase again?) no tomorrow, so be grateful that we’re now proposing to spend spend spend spend like there’s no this evening.
On the other side are the Republicans, who are the closest anybody gets to representing, albeit somewhat tentatively and less than fullthroatedly, the actual borrowers — that’s to say, you and your children and grandchildren. But in essence the spenders are negotiating among themselves how much debt they’re going to burden you with. It’s like you and your missus announcing you’ve set your new credit limit at $1.3 million, and then telling the bank to send demands for repayment to Mr. and Mrs. Smith’s kindergartner next door.