The Senate Budget Committee – A Story of Failed Leadership | Citizens Against Government Waste

The Senate Budget Committee – A Story of Failed Leadership

The WasteWatcher

Congress is statutorily obligated to pass a budget by October 1 of each year; yet, as of August 1, 2011, it has been 824 days since the Senate last passed a budget (April 29, 2009). Lawmakers have abdicated their duty by funding the government through multiple, consecutive short-term continuing resolutions. During this protracted period of indolence, the Senate Budget Committee has spent more than $12 million in taxpayer funds on staff salaries and other extraneous expenses, while Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) office has spent in excess of $5 million.

Government inertia is nothing new to Washington, but Majority Leader Reid and Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) have made it abundantly clear that their decision to not enact a budget resolution is conscious and unified; not the result of partisan bickering. In a May 23, 2011article in the Washington Examiner, Majority Leader Reid is quoted as saying, “There’s no need to have a Democratic budget, in my opinion. It would be foolish for us to do a budget at this stage.” The Examiner article also quotes Chariman Conrad regarding his intent to “defer” work on the fiscal year (FY) 2012 budget indefinitely. Although Chairman Conrad reportedly released his draft budget resolution on July 6, 2011, it has been shared only with select members of Congress and White House staff.

After the Budget Control Act is signed into law by the President, legislative language inserted into the bill by Majority Leader Reid will allow Senate Democrats to delay passing a budget for another two years. According to a July 29, 2011 article in the National Review, “the budget resolutions for fiscal years 2012 and 2013 would not be drafted in committee, marked up, and voted on per the traditional process (i.e., the law); rather they would be ‘deemed’ enacted.” This language will permit the Office of the Majority Leader and the Senate Budget Committee to continue being funded by taxpayers without ever having to put forward a serious plan to address the nation’s long-term fiscal problems. Simply because Democrats’ preferred economic policies (raising taxes and increasing spending) are unpopular with the American public does not mean that the Senate Budget Committee and Majority Leader Reid should be able to continue to violate the provisions of the Congressional Budget Act.

House and Senate Republicans have taken a different approach to solving the fiscal crisis. They have made it crystal clear that they are serious about tackling the nation’s long-term problems. On April 15, 2011, within two weeks of House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) unveiling of his “Path to Prosperity” budget plan, the House acted to pass a budget resolution for FY 2012. The Senate voted on a budget as well – but it was on the House-passed bill; all Democrats and 5 Republicans voted against the bill.

Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle (R-N.Y.) recently introduced the Just Do Your Job Act, which would prohibit further transfer of funds to the House or Senate Budget Committee and the corresponding Office of the Majority Leader if that body of Congress is unable to approve a concurrent resolution on the budget for FY 2011 or 2012. It is patently absurd that this legislation is needed to establish an incentive for lawmakers to do their jobs, but nothing else seems to be working. If the Senate Budget Committee and Majority Leader Reid continue to shirk their moral and legal obligation to address the nation’s dire fiscal situation, they should not be allowed to continue to waste taxpayer dollars.

The nation is in serious need of a long-term plan to rein in spending and perform major reforms to out-of-control entitlement programs. At a time when the national debt has ballooned to $14.5 trillion, the country needs leaders who do their jobs; not just what is politically convenient.

P.J. Austin

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