1,000 Days Since the Democrat-Controlled Senate Has Passed a Budget

President Barack Obama will deliver his fourth State of the Union address on Tuesday, January 24th–the very day that marks the 1,000th day since the Democrat-controlled United States Senate last bothered to pass a budget.

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On Monday, the Ranking Republican of the Senate Budget Committee Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and the Chairman of the House Budget Committee Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) released a joint statement blasting Democrats for their budgetary inaction and contrasting it with Republican efforts:

Senate Democrats abandoned their official duty to prioritize Americans’ hard-earned tax dollars and tackle our nation’s most pressing economic challenges–dealing a painful blow to fiscal progress that may be felt for some time. This contrasts sharply with the record of the House Republicans. Last spring, the new House Majority publicly produced a budget plan before the nation, brought it forward in committee, and passed it on the floor. The budget’s principled solutions honestly confront our nation’s most difficult challenges, putting the budget on a path to balance and the country on a path to prosperity.

To mark the inauspicious 1,000-day anniversary, the Heritage Foundation released a series of budget facts and urged the Senate to meet its Constitution requirements for fiscal stewardship:

  • The last time the Senate passed a budget was on April 29, 2009.
  • Since that date, the federal government has spent $9.4 trillion, adding $4.1 trillion in debt [annual interest payments on the debt now exceed $200 billion].
  • As of January 20, the outstanding public debt stands at $15,240,174,635,409.
  • Interest payments on the debt are now more than $200 billion per year.
  • President Obama proposed a FY2012 budget last year, and the Senate voted it down 97-0. (And that budget was no prize–according to the Congressional Budget Office, that proposal never had an annual deficit of less than $748 billion, would double the national debt in 10 years and would see annual interest payments approach $1 trillion per year.)
  • The Senate rejected House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) budget by 57-40 in May 2011, with no Democrats voting for it.
  • In FY2011, Washington spent $3.6 trillion. Compare that to the last time the budget was balanced in 2001, when Washington spent $1.8 trillion ($2.1 trillion when you adjust for inflation).
  • Entitlement spending will more than double by 2050. That includes spending on Medicare, Medicaid and the Obamacare subsidy program, and Social Security. Total spending on federal health care programs will triple.
  • By 2050, the national debt is set to hit 344 percent of Gross Domestic Product.
  • Taxes paid per household have risen dramatically, hitting $18,400 in 2010 (compared with $11,295 in 1965). If the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts expire and more middle-class Americans are required to pay the alternative minimum tax (AMT), taxes will reach unprecedented levels.
  • Federal spending per household is skyrocketing. Since 1965, spending per household has grown by nearly 162 percent, from $11,431 in 1965 to $29,401 in 2010. From 2010 to 2021, it is projected to rise to $35,773, a 22 percent increase.

Sen. Harry Reid explained the Senate’s budgetary inaction by saying that it would be “foolish” to pass a budget.

Other Democrats, like Sen. Dick Durbin and Rep. Nancy Pelosi ,have argued that there’s no point in passing a budget that Republicans would filibuster. There’s only one problem with that argument: the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 made budgets entirely immune to filibusters and states that budgets may be passed with a simple majority.

Sen. Sessions and Rep. Ryan, both of whom have taken the lead in highlighting the Democrats’ budgetary mismanagement, challenged President Obama to use his State of the Union address to hold Democrats accountable for their inability to pass a budget:

The president and his party’s leaders have yet to detail a credible budget plan to prevent the fiscal crisis that awaits us should we continue down the current path to debt, doubt, and decline. Such a crisis would threaten the economic security, health security, and retirement security of every American. If the president wishes to begin a genuine dialogue with the American people in tomorrow’s State of the Union address, then he must hold his own party accountable for its dogged refusal to produce a plan to prevent this crisis and lift this cloud of uncertainty from the economy. The president must also deliver what he has so far refused: serious reforms to change our debt course and prevent fiscal disaster.

We remain disappointed in the Senate Democrats’ decision to give up on an essential responsibility of governing, and we sincerely hope 2012 will not mark the third consecutive year that Senate Democrats skip the budget process altogether. Nor will it be credible or acceptable for them to present a phony budget plan that pretends to make changes but in reality merely keeps spending on its current trajectory. Real reforms, real spending control, and a real change in the status quo are the minimum obligations of elected leaders in these times of uncertainty and distress. Where the president and his party have failed to confront the greatest challenges of our time, Republicans in the House and Senate will continue to work for solutions to ensure that government can keep its promises, take less from hardworking families and businesses, and create the conditions for economic growth and prosperity.

The dismal 1,000-day anniversary sets up a potential narrative for Republican Senate candidates to run against President Obama’s “Do-Nothing Democratic Senate.”