It's gratifying to watch Democrats squirm as they attempt to justify their abject budget failures while heaping dishonest invective upon Republicans' viable alternative. Kate covered Jay Carney's uncomfortable appearance on Fox's Special Report program last night, during which he was reduced to blaming Republicans for the Senate's failure to produce a budget in three years. This is a common, and completely false, Democrat talking point (budgets are not subject to the filibuster). The latest dubious claim Democrats are advancing is that passage of last summer's Budget Control Act -- the basis for which Democrats fought at every step -- fulfills their budgetary obligations. Even if this were true, it would not explain their previous two years of calculated and unlawful inaction. Nevertheless, that's their latest excuse ("we've already passed a budget!"), employed regularly when pressured on the point by reporters. Not so fast, says the Senate Parliamentarian:
The Senate’s chief referee has issued a key ruling against Majority Leader Harry Reid — a move expected to bring unwanted election-year pressure on the Nevada Democrat to act on politically dicey budget bills. Newly appointed Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough, whom Reid recommended for the job, has decided that last summer’s deal on the debt ceiling and spending caps does not preclude the Senate from taking up other budget resolutions this year. The ruling could force vulnerable Democrats to cast tough votes that hurt them in November, a situation Reid and other leaders are eager to avoid as they work to protect their fragile majority.
The written opinion, shared late last week with a handful of Democratic and GOP senators, gives Republicans significantly more leverage to push for votes on budgets of their choosing. It could mean roll calls on Rep. Paul Ryan’s House-passed GOP budget plan and others offered by Sens. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.). Democrats would gladly vote down the Ryan blueprint, which Obama described Tuesday as a “radical” vision that guts funding for Medicare and education. But a version of President Barack Obama’s own $3.6 trillion budget proposal, which the House unanimously rejected last week, also could come to the Senate floor, ensuring an embarrassing replay of last year when not a single senator voted for the president’s budget. The MacDonough ruling essentially means any senator can place a budget proposal on the Senate calendar. Reid still controls the floor and could choose not to bring them to a vote, though the political optics of such a move could be damaging.
Democrats are -- surprise! -- dismissing the decision because it puts them in a very precarious political position:
Democratic aides have dismissed the ruling as irrelevant, arguing that the historic debt deal already serves as a legally binding budget. And they warned that votes on resolutions would take up valuable floor time, delaying important work on postal and cybersecurity reform, a small-business tax cut and appropriation bills. More than anything, the MacDonough decision turns up the heat on retiring Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, who with Reid’s blessing first approached the parliamentarian and asked for her opinion on the matter.
Conrad, a North Dakota Democrat, had vowed publicly that he would mark up a 2013 budget resolution in his committee this year. But behind the scenes he was making the case to MacDonough that the August enactment of the Budget Control Act meant that any proposed budgets would not automatically get placed on the Senate calendar to await action. Based on Senate precedent, if the Budget Committee has not produced a budget resolution by April 1, then any budget plan offered in the Senate is automatically put on the Senate calendar.
Reid has already signaled he has no plans to move a Democratic budget resolution to the floor. But if Conrad makes good on his word and marks up a budget, any senator could introduce the Democratic plan and put it on the calendar given MacDonough’s ruling. Democrats fear going down that path. Only 51 votes are needed for the Senate to take up a budget resolution. Once that happens, senators can offer and require votes on unlimited amendments — a ritual often referred to as the budget “vote-a-rama.” And Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, who needs to win a net four Senate seats to take back the majority in November, could force his top Democratic targets — including Sens. Claire McCaskill, Jon Tester and Sherrod Brown — to vote to repeal all or parts of Obama’s health care law, approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline and other popular GOP proposals.
Yes, God forbid the Senate waste "valuable floor time" on executing a vital and mandatory task. This is all too rich. Let's follow the timeline: (1) Senate Democrats deliberately shirk their legally-mandated responsibility to pass a budget for three years. (2) Republicans drag Democrats, kicking and screaming, into passing the Budget Control Act. (3) Democrats claim this counts as a budget. (4) Harry Reid recommends a new Senate Parliamentarian, who attains the position. (5) The Senate Budget Committee chairman is granted permission by the Majority Leader to ask for a budget ruling from Reid's own hand-picked "referee." (6) Said "referee" rules against Democrats. (7) Democrats instantly claim her ruling doesn't matter. Remarkable. Oh, one last note about this Senate Parliamentarian:
MacDonough, appointed in February as the Senate’s first female parliamentarian, did not return a phone call seeking comment. But given her dozen years in the parliamentarian’s office — charged with interpreting arcane Senate rules and refereeing disputes between the two parties — she probably wasn’t rattled by the task.
Why must these misogynistic Democrats wage a war on women? It has been 1,071 days since the Democrat-held United States Senate passed a budget. Disgraceful.
UPDATE - Hey look, more budget-related nonsense from Debbie Wasserman Schultz:
"I'm confident the Senate will take up a budget."
Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson. He is co-authors with Mary Katharine Ham for their new book End of Discussion: How the Left's Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun).
Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography