Weekly Columns

We are set to start what is traditionally known as budget season here on Capitol Hill, but if you wouldn’t know that from following the Senate.  We are well over 1,000 days of operating without a budget resolution in this chamber, and it appears Majority Leader Harry Reid is in no hurry to change this trend.  

Earlier this month, Majority Leader Reid announced that the Senate would not hold a vote on a budget resolution for 2013.  The White House, who just belatedly released its own budget proposal, reacted rather nonchalantly about this announcement.  During a daily briefing, the President’s spokesman said they had “no opinion” on the Senate’s unwillingness to take up a budget this year. 

The newly-named White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew went even further to provide cover for the Senate Majority.  While making the Sunday talk show rounds, Lew repeatedly passed off a line The Washington Post called “completely wrong” while trying to pin the blame on Senate Republicans for the lack of a budget.  The Post’s fact checker Glen Kessler wrote that Lew “choose to use highly misleading language that blamed Republicans for the failure of the Democratic leadership.”

The law is clear on this.  We are required debate and adopt a budget resolution this chamber.  But, since there is no penalty for failing to do so, Majority Leader Reid and his caucus refuse to make the tough decisions required to put one forward for a vote.  

The American people have a right to know how their money is being spent.  They have the right to demand accountability from their elected officials.  The Senate Majority is shirking that responsibility. 

Last week, I used this space to write about the Honest Budget Act, a bill I am cosponsoring that would restore accountability to this process and make it harder for Congress to spend without first passing a budget.   But the Honest Budget Act isn’t the only bill I am cosponsoring to reform the budget process.  The No Budget, No Pay Act would hit lawmakers where it hurts the most for failing to pass a budget by withholding our pay.  I’m fairly confident that we would have a timely and responsible budget if you start threatening to take the paychecks away from those who are holding up the process. 

But those in charge of dictating the agenda in this Chamber are unlikely to allow an honest debate on these bills since their caucus doesn’t see a need to even produce a budget.  So, with no budget resolution to provide real curbs in spending, Washington continues to borrow around 40 cents of every dollar we spend. 

America’s fiscal health is at stake.  We’ve got to stop spending more than we take in.  Putting a responsible budget in place would help move us in that direction.  America cannot afford the price of operating without one.