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Senate Democrats on Budget Progress: Never Mind, Actually

Consistency can be strangely comforting at times, so feel free to take refuge in the knowledge that one can always count on Senate Democrats to do the wrong thing sooner or later.  Yesterday we wrote about Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad's welcome decision to "mark up" an elusive Democrat-proposed budget.  Despite the strong probability that Harry Reid would block a floor vote on anything the committee produced, we still awarded Conrad "half a golf clap" for at least commencing the legally-required process he oversees.  Half golf clap rescinded:


The Democratic-led Senate hasn’t passed a budget blueprint since April 2009, and it won’t do so again this spring as election-year pressures consume Capitol Hill. In fact, Conrad’s budget “markup” Wednesday won’t even be a real markup because senators won’t actually offer amendments or vote.The 10-year budget plan Conrad unveiled Tuesday is based on the so-called Bowles-Simpson deficit-reduction plan, though the chairman conceded it’s “just reality” that any real deficit work by his committee will likely be put off until after November. In an interview with POLITICO, Conrad said he’s tried to fight through all the congressional gridlock and inaction: “I don’t spend much time being frustrated because I don’t think it does any good. I just keep plugging away to try to get done what I think is so important for the country.”

What a loathsome spectacle.  I'm beginning to think Sen. Kelly Ayotte's (R-NH) "no budget, no pay" proposal may be the only way to politically bludgeon these miscreants into performing a core function of the job they were elected to carry out.  Also, Politico's story on this mess (linked above) misleadingly lets Democrats off the hook for their own failures by intimating that "gridlock" is to blame for Congressional budget dysfunction.  Indeed, the piece's headline calls the whole episode "a study in Congressional gridlock," hinting that both sides share some blame.  Not so.  The Senate's typical gear-grinding obstacles don't apply here; budgets cannot be filibustered.  There's also the "reconciliation" process in the Senate, which limits debate on items directly related to budget resolutions.  Democrats cannot even pretend to be unfamiliar with this maneuver, as it was instrumental in their infamous Obamacare cram-down.  In other words, this abdication of responsibility rests solely on Democrats’ shoulders, and it’s dishonest to suggest otherwise.

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives has fulfilled its budgetary obligations each of the last two years, ever since Republicans won control of the lower chamber. (Nancy Pelosi's House intentionally failed to pass a fiscal blueprint in 2010).  For the crime of existing, GOP budgets have been relentlessly lied about, demagogued, and attacked.  President Obama's alternatives have been so irresponsible that they've failed to garner a single vote in either house, but Senate Democrats have scrupulously avoided putting forth any ideas of their own.  Chuck Schumer's purely political budget strategy essentially calls on Democrats to avoid voting for any budget, lest they be held accountable for a controversial provision or two.  Who cares about responsible governance when there's an election to avoid losing?  Three years of this nonsense.  Paul Ryan is appalled:


“I am disappointed to learn that Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad will not follow through on his commitment to advance a budget. The Democrat-controlled Senate’s ongoing failure to pass a budget has become one of the most embarrassing spectacles in Washington. A budget is the most basic function of government, and today’s decision by Chairman Conrad to shrink from responsibility and accountability is especially perilous given the debt-fueled economic crisis staring us in the face. This unserious approach to budgeting has serious consequences for Americans families.It has been three years since Chairman Conrad last advanced a budget through the U.S. Senate….

It is also troubling that Chairman Conrad has refused to take steps to address the near-term challenge of across-the-board cuts scheduled to hit critical government functions, stating that the passage of last summer’s Budget Control Act means ‘we already have a budget in place for this year and next.’ With this abdication, the Senate’s Democratic leaders are officially acquiescing to a 10 percent cut in Department of Defense programs and an 8 percent cut in certain domestic programs, such as the National Institutes of Health and border security, taking effect in January of next year.”

I hope the self-anointed “party of ideas” is proud of itself.  They’ll no doubt turn around and decry Republicans as the “party of no” at their earliest opportunity, of course, perhaps over GOP opposition to the White House’s latest distractionary ploy on evil oil speculators.  Speaking of which, would Obama's "solution" accomplish anything for American consumers?  His White House can't really say either way:


It's the Buffett Rule, redux -- all poll-tested smoke and mirrors, no real leadership.

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