PBS: ‘Congress Hasn’t Passed a Budget in Years,’ Fails to Call Out Democratic Senate

On Thursday’s NewsHour, PBS co-anchor Hari Sreenivasan misled viewers in a story about the latest action in Congress regarding the $984-billion continuing resolution -- a spending bill which will fund federal government operations through September 30, when the current fiscal year ends. Said Sreenivasan: “That spending legislation was necessary because Congress hasn't passed a budget in years.

While that sentence is true, it's incredibly misleading in that the U.S. House of Representatives has repeatedly passed budget resolutions. It's just that the Democratic-controlled Senate has failed to approve a budget, any budget, in more than three years.


In 2011 and 2012, the Republican-controlled House did in fact pass a budget. However, it takes both houses of Congress to enact a budget. By law, each house is required to pass its own version of the budget, and then they must work out their differences through a conference committee in order to pass a final version.
 

Since 2009, the Democratic-controlled Senate has failed to pass a budget (although it looks like they may do so this year). Without the Senate’s cooperation, Congress as a whole has been unable to fulfill its constitutional duty to produce a budget for the past three years. It’s also worth noting that the Democratic-controlled House failed to pass a budget in 2010. One would think 2010 would have been an easy year to pass a budget, as Democrats controlled both houses of Congress, but alas, that was an election year in which ObamaCare was already a contentious sticking point.

Can you imagine PBS, or any of the major networks, allowing such a caveat to escape their notice if an obstinate Republican Senate had held up the budget process? But when Democrats fail to do their jobs, that’s not a problem.

Later in the story, while discussing the sequester, Sreenivasan put on his fortune teller’s hat and looked into the future: “Those automatic across-the-board spending cuts, agreed to during the last fiscal fights, will start being felt more intensely over the next few weeks.

I suppose this is what the media have to hope for. After all, they devoted much time to hyping the sequester before it hit, but when it did, it barely made an impact. Their dire warnings have proven frivolous so far. If they want to maintain credibility, they are in the unfortunate position of rooting for economic hardship to strike the country soon.

Below is a transcript of the story:

HARI SREENIVASAN: And we turn now to domestic politics as another congressional fiscal fight takes shape. (Voiceover) There are three major money matters at the Capitol right now with deadlines looming. The sequester, the continuing resolution and the budget. Each has distinctive parts but fits into the bigger theme of how each party wants to fund the government. First, the continuing resolution: Lawmakers were facing a deadline next week to pass a $984 billion measure to fund the government through September. That spending legislation was necessary because Congress hasn't passed a budget in years. It passed both chambers in a rare show of bipartisanship. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid:

HARRY REID: And the way we used to do things is fund the government in a timely fashion. We have the opportunity to do that now, we're taking care of the next six months. During this six months the government is functioning because of what we've done here.



SREENIVASAN: This came after lawmakers agreed on easing some budget cuts to food inspection services and flexibility for the Pentagon on the sequester. Those automatic across-the-board spending cuts, agreed to during the last fiscal fights, will start being felt more intensely over the next few weeks. Finally, the broader issue as Congress battles over the budget. Today, House Republicans approved their budget, which dramatically changes entitlement programs like Medicare and makes more spending cuts. The Senate began debate today on a very different version of a ten-year spending plan written by Democrats. They call for higher taxes to fund government programs. House Speaker John Boehner remained skeptical.

JOHN BOEHNER: The budget that Senate Democrats are considering never balances, ever. That means more debt, fewer jobs and frankly, much higher taxes from the American people.

SREENIVASAN: The negotiations over these competing party visions for governing will begin in earnest when President Obama submits his spending blueprint on April 8. With their work done, House members leave town today for a two week recess, while senators will remain in a marathon session until a vote on their own plan to fund the government.
 

Paul Bremmer
Paul Bremmer is a Media Research Center News Analysis Division intern.