In the Washington Times, Deroy Murdock reminds us that it's been three years since "Senate Democrats passed a budget. This dereliction of duty lagrantly violates the 1974 Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act."
Here's Harry Reid (D-Nev.), the head of the Senate Democrats:
“We do not need to bring a budget to the floor this year. It’s done. We don’t need to do it.”
And here's the budget chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.):
“This is the wrong time to vote on the floor...I don’t think we will be prepared to vote before the election.”
Conrad is officially retiring at the end of his current term, which expires early next year. But if we define active employment as, you know, doing your basic job function (such as passing a budget resolution), then he's been off the clock for at least the past three years. He's the king of legislative vaporware, constantly signaling that he's about to release some big plan than never seems to make it out the door so that it can actually be discussed in the light of day.
Well, we know who is to blame for all of this, right? It's got to be the Republicans, even though they don't control the Senate (and they didn't control the House either, until January 2011). Get this: The GOP is going to play politics with a budget resolution, the filthy bastards.
Cue the Washington Post's Ezra Klein, who is as good a pal as Kent Conrad will ever have in the press. He writes that the good senator (routinely described by one and all as a "budget hawk," "a deficit hawk," etc., despite his inability to, you know, produce a budget) wants to become more bipartisan. But those freaking GOP bastards really just want to run against any plan and any vote to raise taxes and spending:
Republicans are agog that Senate Democrats have been so absent in the budget debate. They can't believe that, in a period of record deficits, Senate Democrats won't offer a vision and defend it through a normal budget process.
But they don't want Senate Democrats to pass a budget....
...on Wednesday, Conrad tried to do what so many in Washington said was necessary: Move to Simpson-Bowles. Make this debate bipartisan. Instead, Simpson-Bowles got trashed by Republicans and jammed into a protected, partisan process by Democrats. And the GOP provided more evidence that they want to undercut the Budget Control Act, which means we're headed to a showdown over appropriations, and soon. Attempts at bipartisanship, in other words, showed just how partisan this issue really is.
Conrad is a big fan of the Simpson-Bowles plan, which came out of a commission that President Obama put together to help the government do its job in terms of, you know, actually voting on a real budget rather than a series of continuing resolutions. When the plan, which called for massive spending increases and assumed a level of federal revenue that has never been reached, was voted on in the House, it failed by a vote of 382 against and 38 for. That's proof that even Democrats, who have 190 votes in the House, reject it; so is the fact that White House, which convened the commission, has apparently taken down its final report.
So here's Conrad telling Politico about why Simpson-Bowles is so great and wildly popular with everyone except his own party and his GOP colleagues:
“I’m not interested in furthering the political divide,” Conrad told reporters. “I am focused on getting a positive result for the American people. And I believe the best way to do that is to start in the middle with a plan that already has strong bipartisan support both in Congress and across the nation.”
The charitable description for this sort of palaver and inaction is delusional. If folks in power ever want to understand why favorable opinion of Congress is slouching toward single digits, this sort of evasion of business and responsibility has got to be right up there with the sex scandals and the coarser stuff. If someone as vaunted and powerful and super-duper as Kent Conrad (so say all his press clippings) can't push his party to slug out their vision of how much the feds should spend and tax in a given year, Congress doesn't deserve any respect.