Our colleague Tina Korbe at Hot Air calls this misstatement from Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) "weak" and "ignorant." The GOP is peddling it to friendly media as an embarrassing "gaffe." Pardon me for being a tad cynical, but I'm going to call it what it is: A lie. If you're even a quasi-regular reader of The Tipsheet, you're probably aware that it's been quite some time since Senate Democrats introduced a budget. (824 days, to be precise, but who's counting?) Both Congressional chambers have a statutory obligation to offer an annual budget, but Democrats have chosen to ignore the law for more than two consecutive years. Senator Durbin was called out on this dereliction of duty on Fox News Sunday, and he launched into a partisan defense of the indefensible. He blamed his party's failure on...Republican obstructionism:
Near the end of the clip, you can hear Sen. Kyl trying to jump in and correct the record, but Durbin's damage was done. The waters were effectively muddied. As Americans tuned into the debt ceiling debate late last week, many were likely reminded that advancing a bill in the Senate often requires 60 votes. That's the reason Harry Reid's original debt plan failed, even though it won a bare 50-49 majority. Assuming most average voters aren't acquainted with the arcane minutiae of Senate procedure, Durbin used this super-majority barrier as an excuse for his conference's budget abdication. The trouble is, that 60 vote threshold does not apply in this case because Senate budgets only require a simple majority for passage. They literally cannot be filibustered.
Democrats have controlled the US Senate since 2007. When they were responsible for fashioning a FY 2011 budget in calendar year 2010, they also controlled the House. As I've written before, Congressional Democrats could have offered and passed virtually any budget they wanted that year. With a tough election coming up, neither house even made an attempt. Now, heading into FY 2012, perhaps Senate Democrats feel more constrained by the reality of a GOP-controlled House -- but it is still their legally-mandated job to produce a budget blueprint of some sort. They have not. Again, they have not even tried. Republican obstructionism has absolutely nothing to do with this. While it's plainly impossible to "obstruct" a budget proposal that doesn't exist, the truth is that even if the GOP wanted to block this theoretical budget, Senate rules would prevent them from doing so.
This brings us to my somewhat inflammatory accusation that Durbin was intentionally lying. Consider the following facts: Dick Durbin has been serving in Congress for longer than I've been alive. For the last 14 years, he's been a United States Senator. For the most recent six of those years, he's been the second highest-ranking Senate Democrat, behind Harry Reid. The most charitable explanation for Durbin's inaccurate statement yesterday is that he simply wasn't familiar with the applicable Senate rules and he made a mistake. Given his leadership role in that very body, his 28 years on Capitol Hill, and his proclivity for odious statements, I've reached a different conclusion: He lied.
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