Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Reid Captivity: Day 1351

April, 2009. That's when the last budget resolution was passed by the Senate. Since then, all spending by the Federal Government has been authorized by unhinged appropriations bills, as Byron York explains:
The budget passed by large Democratic majorities in the first months of the Obama administration had hugely elevated levels of spending in it. By not passing a new spending plan since, Reid has in effect made those levels the new budgetary baseline. Congress has kept the government going with continuing resolutions based on the last budget signed into law.
York--along with many other people--also notes that the Senate is required to pass a budget, as a matter of law, per the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974. And strictly speaking, that's true. The Act does require Congress to pass a "concurrent budget resolution" each year, no later than May 15th. But the requirement is more of an internal rule for Congress than it is a law. There is wiggle room here. And Reid--via his budget puppet Kent Conrad--has used up every bit of it that is available.

Last year, Conrad took to the floor of the Senate to defend the apparent lack of a budget from the Senate by arguing that a budget was, in fact, passed:
When they say there is no budget for the United States, they know that is not true. How do I know it is not true, and that there is a budget? Because I remember what we voted on, and it is in writing. It is a law. It is called the Budget Control Act. The Budget Control Act passed last year and contained the budget for 2012 and 2013. Some say that is not a budget. Let's look to the language of the law itself and see what it says. 
Here is what it says: “For the purpose of enforcing the Congressional Budget Act of 1974…including section 300 of that Act, and enforcing budgetary points of order in prior concurrent resolutions on the budget, the allocations, aggregates, and (spending) levels set…shall apply in the Senate in the same manner as for a concurrent resolution on the budget...” 
What they are trying to do is mislead the American people by saying we have not passed a budget resolution. What they failed to tell people is that instead of a budget resolution, we passed a budget law. What is the difference? A resolution is purely a congressional document. It never goes to the President for his signature. So instead of a resolution, we passed a budget law called the Budget Control Act. It set out spending limits not just for 2012 and 2013, it actually set out, on the discretionary side of the budget, limits for 10 years.
And Conrad is right, insofar as the Budget Control Act of 2011 does say "for the purposes of enforcing the Congressional Budget Act of 1974." The problem is, just because the language is there, it doesn't mean it's true. This, I think, is a major problem shared by many of our elected leaders. For instance, just because a bill says "for the purposes of creating jobs," it doesn't follow that what is in the bill is actually about creating jobs, much less that it will create jobs. Similarly, just because a bill is given the title "the Patriot Act," is doesn't follow that only non-patriots could oppose it or any part of it. Moreover, that Act was passed in August of 2011. At best, then, it could serve as a substitute for one year's budget resolution. That still leaves two--and soon to be three--years unaccounted for.

The requirement in the 1974 Act is for Congress--House and Senate--to formulate a basic budget for each upcoming fiscal year, a plan consistent with the CBO and the President's budget (with respect to the parts accepted by Congress) that shows money coming in and money going out. The Budget Control Act of 2011 doesn't do these things. In fact, it can't do these things with respect to future budgets. And no matter what Conrad--or Reid--claims, future Congresses are not bound by the limits set by this Act, especially not ten years down the road. That's just stupidity--or ignorance--in spades.

The real game here, for Reid and his minions, is to avoid having any accountability, with regard to fiscal problems in the future and spending in the present. Thus, we have already taken the first step to another trillion dollar deficit year because there is nothing in place to check the growth of spending, or at least to serve as a means of seeing when such spending is out of control.

And as every competent adult knows, that's the real point of a budget: to indicate when one is spending too much, when one is living beyond one's means. Why on earth would anyone--who cares a whit about our future--be opposed to setting a budget in Congress? And that's just it. Reid doesn't care. Conrad has retired.

Plus, it's beyond hysterical to watch the same people who once made it a point to shout "the Republicans have no plan" from the rooftops now hem and haw when confronted with their own unwillingness to offer up a simple budget for nearly four years. Talk about having no plan (and no clue).

But beyond that, Reid's failure to pass a budget resolution is also a capitulation to the executive branch. The whole point of the 1974 Act was to give Congress more control over expenditures. And this was done largely through the congressional committees created by the Act, along with the CBO (also created by the Act). It prevented the executive office from simply spending allocated monies in ways other than those intended by creating Congressional oversight in that regard.

The budget process in Congress is a key to this oversight. Reid's continued failure to do his job is steadily eroding Congressional authority on spending; a truth we can see playing out on the national stage, as Obama is becoming more and more forceful in his negotiations. After all, no one can accuse him of ignoring the budget, since the only budget he need concern himself with is the one he can change at will: his own.

Aside from all of this being no way to run a country, it is thus also slowly becoming something of a constitutional crisis, as Congress is surrendering it's ordained powers. After all, it is the body given the power to borrow money and to raise revenue. To suppose that it does both with no control over the monies from that point forward is nonsensical. The end game: a President that tells Congress how much money he or she will spend and leaves it to them to find sources for the money. Sounds a little third-world, a little Game-of-Thrones-feudal-society even. Nothing like the co-equal government branches envisioned be the Founders. Yet, this is exactly the direction we are headed. And Harry Reid is driving the bus.

Cheers, all.