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March 20, 2013

Fighting Faux With Facts

Patrick W. Allen

This column contains indisputable facts regarding the absence of a Senate passed budget ... laying the problem at the feet of both Republican and Democrat members of Congress.


Procedural Fact: Since the passage of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974, the Senate and the House are supposed to pass budget resolutions in the spring. These budget resolutions set a framework for spending, taxation and other fiscal items in the coming fiscal year. They also lay out general plans for the next four years. If these budget resolutions differ, the chambers are supposed to hammer out a compromise.


Budget resolutions are policy plans. They are not appropriations bills, or spending bills, which actually allocate money for specific purposes.


If a budget resolution doesn't pass, the federal government won’t go dark. In the absence of a budget resolution, appropriations bills have continued to allocate money.


Political Reality: Both parties are at fault. The U.S. House of Representatives passed seven of the 12 annual appropriations bills [2012] and sent them to the Senate for consideration, according to the status report by Republicans on the Senate Budget Committee. The Senate Appropriations Committee also approved 11 of the 12 spending bills and sent them to the full Senate for consideration.


An independent search by PolitiFact, via the Library of Congress’ Thomas bill-tracking web site, confirmed the figures cited in the GOP report.


But none of the bills approved by the House or the Senate Appropriations Committee were ever brought to the Senate floor for a vote. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., NV), who decides which bills will be considered, told reporters on July 10, 2012, that no spending bills were likely to be approved (for Fiscal 2013) …. because of an ongoing dispute with House Republicans over how much the federal government should spend.


True to his word, Senator Reid so far has not brought any of the annual spending bills to the floor this year, necessitating the short-term budget measure to keep the government running for another six months.


Previous PolitiFact items on claims like this also have brought this perspective – there have been times when Republicans have been in charge and also have failed to pass a budget.


Our colleagues at PolitiFact Florida report that the House and the Senate had failed to pass a joint budget bill on four other occasions since 1983.


The Reality Kicker for fiscal year 2003, the Senate, under Democratic control in 2002, failed to pass a budget resolution of any kind. For fiscal years 1999, 2005 and 2007, the House and the Senate failed to reconcile their different bills and pass a compromise measure. In these latter three cases, the Republicans were in the majority in both chambers of Congress.


Republicans Cite Themselves: Sen. Bob Corker (R., TN) says it has been more than three years since Congress passed a budget and that this year, not a single appropriations bill has made it to the Senate floor. The record shows that he has his facts straight.


While other Republicans have tried to lay the blame for the lack of a budget at the feet of Democrats, Senator Corker does not specifically apportion blame on just one party. He simply chastised the Senate in general for failing to pass a budget and PolitiFact rates his statement as true.


To argue against the facts is simply a denial of political reality.


During the Obama Administration, the House and Senate Republicans have made it clear that they will do nothing to assist the president ... i.e., Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's statement in January 2009, that Republicans intend for Barack Obama to be a one term president.


With that plan in mind, it is easy to understand why Republican members of the respective congressional chambers would construct budget language and poison-pill amendments to ensure that differences between the two chambers could not be reconciled via the conference committee process. Hence, no budget bill gets passed and we continue to exercise Continuing Resolutions to keep the government funded and operating.


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