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Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Dem Controlled Senate Has Passed No Budget In Nearly 4 Yrs: GOP Might Use Debt Limit To Force Issue

By Susan Duclos

Byron York reports that as of Tuesday it will be 1, 350 days since the Democratically controlled Senate has passed a budget. That is three years and 255 days. The Republican controlled House of Representatives have passed budgets in that time, as is required by law and even Barack Obama has proposed his own budgets but his budgets were so unrealistic that no Republicans or Democrats in the House or Senate provided one single vote in favor of it when it came to the respective floors.

Since nothing, to date, has convinced Senate Majority leader Harry Reid to abide by the law and pass a budget through the Senate, the GOP is proposing a new plan to force Reid's hand, using the upcoming debt limit battle to do so.

The situation is deeply frustrating for many Republicans. Sen. Jeff Sessions, ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, has conducted a virtual crusade on the issue, loudly and consistently and unsuccessfully demanding that Reid obey the law and pass a budget. Now, with a fight over the debt ceiling approaching, Sessions wants to try something new.

"I think it should be a firm principle that we should not raise the debt ceiling until we have a plan on how the new borrowed money will be spent," Sessions told me Monday in a phone conversation from his home in Alabama. "If the government wants to borrow money so it can spend more, then the government ought to tell the Congress and the American people how they will spend it."

There are no specific proposals yet, but under this scenario Republicans would insist on a debt ceiling agreement that includes (among other things) a requirement that Congress pass a budget by a specific date. If that doesn't happen, there would be some sort of enforcement mechanism, perhaps an arrangement whereby the debt ceiling was lowered, or one in which Congress would have to muster a supermajority to raise it again.

This idea has support from Republicans in both the House and Senate with one saying it has "great merit and appeal."

Speaker John Boehner seemed to be thinking along the same lines as Sessions in a recent conversation with the Wall Street Journal's Stephen Moore, who wrote that Boehner "will insist that Harry Reid and Senate Democrats pass a budget -- something they haven't done in nearly four years -- before proceeding." 

That references the Boehner interview where it became public knowledge that Barack Obama told John Boehner that "we don't have a spending problem" in the US. (WuA discussed that here)