The last time Democrats in the United States Senate adhered to the law and put forward an annual budget was back in calendar year 2009, just after the last presidential election. Now that another major national electoral contest is in the rearview mirror, it appears that Harry Reid's motley crew is preparing to make good on their magnanimous pledge to actually do their jobs this year. Via a senior Republican source at the Senate Budget Committee:
We expect to mark up a Senate Democrat budget next week. We don’t have a date, we don’t know details such as whether Republicans will be allowed to offer amendments, and we don’t yet have any assurance that Chairman Murray will provide Republicans, reporters, and the American people with the text at least 72 hours in advance. But we do expect it to happen next week, and think it’s important that Chairman Murray keep her public commitment to doing a budget this year.
More than 1,400 days later, the Senate will finally "get off their ass" and engage in the prosaic business of core governance. Whether they'll follow through on this non-derelict behavior throughout the full budget season -- let alone in future years, as voter accountability day draws closer -- remains to be seen. Another budget vacation may soon be in the offing. The White House, meanwhile, has announced it will release Obama's FY 2014 budget in late March, nearly two months past its statutory due date:
President Obama’s delayed budget for next year is now expected to be delivered on March 25. Congressional sources have been informed by the administration to expect a fiscal 2014 blueprint on that date. By law, the budget was due Feb. 4, and releasing it March 25 would make it seven weeks late. Normally, the president’s request is the beginning of the annual budget process and Congress relies on its detailed spending information to come up with its own budget resolution. This time the order will be reversed. House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) plans to put out his own budget — one that balances in 10 years — before the new Obama plan arrives. That budget is also slated to get a House vote before the House embarks on a two-week Easter recess March 22.
As we wrote last month, Obama's budget delinquency is unprecedented, and will result in the president's fiscal blueprint landing with a thud on the Capitol steps during a Congressional recess. This decision leaves the ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee decidedly cold:
Now, we learn that the President is going to submit his budget plan—which contains his recommendations to Congress, the reason the law requires it to be submitted early in February before our budget work begins—on March 25th. Yet he will be submitting it after the House and Senate have produced a budget proposal and adjourned for Easter. So while the President speaks of his deep concern for American workers and families, he fails to even submit to Congress his financial plan to help those workers and families," Sessions said in a statement. "Why then doesn’t the President furlough his entire 500-person staff at the Office of Management and Budget instead of threatening teachers and law enforcement personnel?" he asked.
Good question. The administration's excuse for the delay is that the fight over sequestration and other "manufactured crises" threw a wrench in their normal budgetary gears. This justification doesn't pass the laugh test. First, the White House has known the sequester was coming for 16 months; it was not a surprise. Second, they've also known about their February 4 deadline since 2013 calendars were first published. It's been the law of the land for presidents to submit their budget proposals to Congress by the first Monday in February since Warren G. Harding was president. Third, was the sequester also somehow to blame for Obama's previous three budget deadline failures? And finally, the lack of a federal budget is the root cause of the very "manufactured crises" they bemoan, so starting another budget cycle on a dysfunctional foot just inflames the problem. House Republicans will again offer their budget on time, although at least one mechanism for achieving primary balance within ten years is reportedly stirring dissention in the ranks. (Also, the House rules committee is marking up a CR for the rest of 2013 today, and a full vote is expected on Thursday). I'll leave you with another example of unpersuasive budget blame-shift. Here's Iowa Democrat Rep. Bruce Braley, who's running to replace retiring Sen. Tom Harkin, blaming the Senate's long budget drought on Republican filibusters:
Two quick memos to Rep. Braley: (1) Budgets cannot be filibustered, so you're either ignorant or a liar. (2) "The filibuster" is actually two words. Also, bravo to that journalist for swallowing Braley's factually false excuse whole. Way to do your homework, bro.