In the five years that Obama has been President, the Senate Democrats have produced only one budget resolution. During Obama’s presidency, the government has been funded by a series of “continuing resolutions” which simply extend all current government programs, preventing any review or reform. On Friday, Senate Budget Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) said her chamber would again forgo their requirement to produce a budget resolution for next year. It is a political, not a fiscal decision.
“We should work together to build on our two-year bipartisan budget, not create more uncertainty for families and businesses,” Murray said. “It wouldn’t be productive to relitigate it so soon after our two-year deal.”
Murray is referring to the two-year budget deal struck with House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) at the end of last year. That deal set overall discretionary budget levels for the next two years. That deal rolled back most of the sequester cuts, but did nothing to bring the long-term budget into balance. According to the CBO, the current budget framework is set to grow the national debt to $27 trillion over the next decade.
The budget resolution, which Congress is required to enact each year, provides a framework for appropriators to produce a detailed spending blueprint for the government. The appropriations committees work within the limits set by the resolution to prioritize spending for every government agency and program.
“Senate Democrats are required by law to produce a budget,” Budget Committee ranking member Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) said Friday. “Our nation is in enormous financial distress, and workers and families are suffering. Senate Democrats have produced only one budget in the last five years. This Senate and, more importantly, the American public, deserve to see a detailed ten-year financial plan to contain our dangerously rising debt and revitalize our dismal economy.”
The upcoming midterm elections are the third election cycle where the Senate Democrat majority is threatened. In 2010, the Democrats lost 6 seats in the Senate. They continued to hold the majority after Obama’s reelection campaign in 2012 and the failure of several high-profile Republican recruits. Their majority is vulnerable yet again in the upcoming elections in November. A loss of 6 seats, which looks increasingly possible, would give Republicans control of the Senate.
Passing a budget resolution would expose several vulnerable Senate Democrat incumbents. A budget resolution that didn’t tackle the long-term fiscal challenges would show these Democrats to be unresponsive to voters’ concerns about the national debt. At the same time, the Democrats preferred method for tackle the debt, tax hikes, is political unpopular in an election year.
It says a lot about a political party when it feels unable to follow its policy ideas ahead of an election.
The House has said it will produce a budget resolution this year, as it has since the GOP took control of the Chamber in 2011.