Open Thread: No Budget from Democrats for Third Consecutive Year

For the third consecutive year, the Democratic-controlled Senate will not even attempt to pass a budget. This wasn't the first choice of the Senate budget committee chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) who appears to have been pressured into his decision by Senate majority leader Harry Reid who has been insistent that he doesn't want a budget.

But Conrad also seems to have had his own difficulties getting other Democrats onboard as well:

In a stunning backtrack that virtually guarantees Congress for the third year will be unable to produce a budget, Senate Democrats’ top budget writer Tuesday canceled this week’s expected votes on a 2013 fiscal blueprint.

Instead, Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, North Dakota Democrat, said he will use the next few months to try to breathe life into the shelved 2-year-old Bowles-Simpson deficit commission proposal.

Mr. Conrad said he wasn’t able to get enough Democrats to back a fiscal 2013 budget, much less reach a bipartisan agreement, and that he decided instead to try to kick-start a longer-term debate.

“This is the wrong time to vote in the committee. This is the wrong time to vote on the floor,” Mr. Conrad told reporters as he announced his strategy. “We do need to try to maximize the chance as we get closer to all the tax cuts expiring and the sequester being imposed that we’re ready to act.”

He said he will still convene the Budget Committee this week and introduce his plan, but won’t hold any votes or debate any amendments. [...]
Given the opposition, Mr. Conrad instead decided to try to revive the Bowles-Simpson plan, named after former White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles and former Sen. Alan Simpson, who led a commission that produced a plan for raising taxes and limiting spending — all designed to reduce long-term deficits.

Though President Obama established the Bowles-Simpson commission, he rejected its December 2010 proposal, and Democrats who controlled Congress at the time did not bring up it up for a vote.

But it has simmered in the background, with lawmakers occasionally saying it should serve as a basis for negotiations — only to see both Democratic and Republican leaders block their efforts.

Reid alone wouldn't have been able to force Conrad to withdraw his budget proposal but he certainly could've drummed up a sufficient number of fellow Democrats to oppose the North Dakotan's efforts. While Conrad claims he wants to ressurect the Bowles-Simpson plan, the net result of his refusal to try to push forward a budget for next fiscal year means that once again, the federal government will be funded via a continuing resolution based on the 2010 budget passed the year before when Democrats controlled both houses of Congress but which has been modified somewhat since the negotiations last year.

Given Reid's unwillinginess to put fellow Democrats on the line to see where they stand about tax and spending policy, do you see any other course than to let the November elections run their course? Do you think that Reid is just stalling for time or is this part of a larger plan to ensure that the massive spending enacted by President Obama and fellow Democrats in 2009 stays around for as long as possible?

Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield, creator of NewsBusters and president of Dialog New Media, an internet marketing and design firm, left NewsBusters at the end of 2013