Government Spending

To Avoid Another Debt-Limit Shutdown, Arrest Harry Reid!

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One of the main problems over virtually the entirety of Barack Obama's presidency has been the inability of the Senate, led all that time by Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), to pass a budget.

Because of that incredible and unparalleled display of incompetence and/or unwillingness to, you know, lay out what the world's greatest deliberative body says the country should spend in a given year, all sorts of problems have formed. Including regular impasses about, you know, what the country should be spending.

This is not a an unalloyed bad thing from a spending point of view. The feds' reliance on temporary continuing resolutions to keep the government running has almost certainly resulted in lower spending overall. But for god's sake, this is no way to run a country. 

Reid's inability to pass—or truth be told, even produce a budget document for public discussion—isn't just pathetic, incompetent, and the very definition of passive-aggressive obstructionist. It's also illegal, as The Washington Examiner's Byron York points out:

If it is against the law for Congress not to pass a budget (and it is), and if Harry Reid is violating that law (and he is), then why can't something be done about it?  Why can't Reid be charged with something?  Or perhaps a lawsuit be brought?

Sadly, when it comes to throwing one of their own in jail for breaking the law, the feds somehow forgot to include an enforcement mechanism. York again:

The answer is the law requiring Congress to pass an annual budget, the Congressional Budget Act of 1974, doesn't have an enforcement mechanism.  Lawmakers are required by law to pass a budget each year by April 15, but there's no provision to punish them, or even slightly inconvenience them, if they don't.  In Reid's case, the Senate last passed a budget in April 2009, 1,351 days ago as of Wednesday.

York suggests that apart from anything else coming down the pike over the next couple of months related to government spending, debt-limit deals, and more, Congress should pass a tougher law regarding its own inability to do what is arguably its first order of business: passing a freaking budget.

It would seem unnecessary — after all, it is a core constitutional responsibility of lawmakers — but Harry Reid has made a new, stronger law a real priority.

This may be the basis of a White House petition: Don't let Harry Reid leave the floor of the Senate until he completes at least this year's budget. And as a special bonus, let's shackle Reid's main enabler in this charade— former Sen. Kent Conrad, the budget committee chair who was routinely referred to as a budget whiz while failing for the last years of vaunted career to cobble together a document worth passing around – to the Majority Leader's back to create a sense of urgency.