More than 1,100 days have passed since Senate Democrats last approved a budget for the federal government. The majority caucus continues to neglect a critical measure to keep Washington accountable. In three years without a budget, federal spending has topped $10 trillion.
As a recent column in The Washington Times pointed out, the iPad had yet to be introduced when the last Senate budget was passed. This is unacceptable. American taxpayers deserve to see a blueprint of the federal government's spending priorities every year.
Budget Is Required by Law
According to Section 631 of the U.S. Code, a budget resolution is a basic obligation that both houses of Congress must meet on or before April 15. The House of Representatives fulfilled its part in late March when it approved a budget introduced by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). The Senate has not done the same since 2009.
Neither the filibuster nor the two-thirds majority rule applies to passing the required budget resolution in the Senate. It simply takes 51 votes, and Democrats currently hold 53 seats. There is no excuse for not complying with the clear mandate of the budget law. Each day, the federal debt grows closer to $16 trillion -- a massive burden that will be left to our children and grandchildren unless we make tough decisions now.
No Votes for President's Plan
Last week, the Senate voted on budget plans submitted by President Obama, House Republicans, and Republican Sens. Mike Lee (Utah), Rand Paul (Ky.), and Pat Toomey (Pa.). Senate Democrats were the only group not to introduce their own proposal.
Like last year, not a single Democratic member voted for the President's budget, which was rejected unanimously. Both Republicans and Democrats recognize that the President's plan spends too much, taxes too much, and borrows too much -- leaving entitlement programs without meaningful reform and America's debt problem worse.
The deficit has been more than $1 trillion every year since President Obama took office, despite his promise in 2009 that he would cut the deficit in half by the end of his first term.
Democrats Put Politics First
Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) has suggested the upcoming election is a factor in Democrats' decision to sit on the sidelines. Last month, he said, "This is the wrong time to vote in committee; this is the wrong time to vote on the floor. I don't think we will be prepared to vote before the election." In other words, Democrats' political concerns trump leadership.
Mississippians are right to wonder when will be the right time for Congress to agree on a federal budget that takes fiscal responsibility seriously. Families and businesses in our state understand the importance of having a budget and living within it. They know that kicking the can down the road will not make the debt go away.
A real and credible debate about our country's debt crisis will require the involvement of both political parties. Republicans and Democrats have important differences on a number of issues, but that should not deter a concentrated effort to lower the deficit and curb runaway spending. As the law dictates, passing a budget is essential to this process.