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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Why Democrats Won't Vote on a Budget

Households make budgets. So do businesses and nonprofits. There was also a time when Congress made them, but those days are long gone -- 1,086 days gone, to be precise. That's the last time Democrats, who have controlled one or both houses of Congress this whole time, passed a budget resolution through either the House or the Senate.

On April 15, 2010, both houses failed to meet the statutory deadline for passing a budget for the first time ever. Although the Senate Budget Committee would later pass a plan out of committee, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., blocked it from the floor, going so far as to prevent even a debate about the budget.

Asked to explain this bicameral failure in the face of trillion-dollar deficits, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said, "It's difficult to pass budgets in election years." Turns out, it is also difficult to get re-elected when you don't pass budgets. Later that same year, House Democrats lost 63 seats.

Senate Democrats lost six seats in 2010 but managed to retain control of the upper chamber. Surely, in the nonelection year of 2011 they would bring a budget to the floor, right? Wrong. Reid told reporters at the time, "There's no need to have a Democratic budget," adding, "It would be foolish for us to do a budget at this stage." In July 2011, Reid's assistant leader, Dick Durbin, D-Ill., went so far as to claim on national television that Republican filibusters prevented a budget from passing. He must have known he was fibbing -- under Senate rules, budget resolutions can pass with a simple majority.

In fact, Democrats just wanted to focus on attacking the "Path to Prosperity" budget proposed by House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said, "To put other budgets out there is not the point." As Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner would later say, "We don't have a definitive solution ... We just don't like yours."

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