As we turn the calendar to May, Nebraskans have begun planning for the summer months, but in Washington it seems many have already turned their attention to the November elections. The Senate is considering partisan bills filled with untenable "poison pills" never intended to pass. Meanwhile, as our national debt approaches $16 trillion, we've hit a notable milestone. As of this month, it has now been three full years since the Democrat-controlled Senate last passed a budget.
Congress is literally required by law to pass a budget every year. Yet each year since 2009, the Senate has neglected to do so. Federal law instructs the President to submit a budget proposal each year outlining his policy aims. With each passing year, President Obama seems to take this duty less and less seriously. In 2011, his resolution failed in the Senate by a vote of 97-0. Not a single senator deemed it worthy of his or her vote. To avoid a similar embarrassment this year, Democrats have done their best to avoid a vote on the President's proposal and the Democrat Senate Budget Committee Chairman didn't even allow votes when his committee discussed a budget plan.
Some have suggested last year's Budget Control Act represents a sufficient substitute for an actual budget. Here's the problem with that suggestion: the Budget Control Act only slowed the growth rate of 38 percent of our spending, leaving the other 62 percent unchecked. No one would tell you it represents a long-term plan to rein in our debt. Nor is it a sufficient excuse as to why a true budget never passed over the last three years. Additionally, the Senate Parliamentarian -- who serves as the chief referee -- ruled that because the Budget Control Act sets only ambiguous spending and revenue levels, other budget resolutions are in order and cannot be blocked. She further ruled the duty of producing a budget is too important to be "shut off" because of a law as general as the Budget Control Act.
Our country spends more than $3.5 trillion a year and we have a very outdated blueprint to guide that spending. Though a budget didn't pass over the last three years, that doesn't mean nothing has changed. Our national debt has increased nearly 50 percent, and our country's debt per capita -- at nearly $50,000 per person -- is now higher than that of Greece. As a result, we've lost our perfect credit rating.
The fact is our country is in a state of fiscal disorder, a rudderless ship with no long-term plan to steer it or begin reversing our ongoing, record-setting budget deficits. A budget is a ten-year financial plan. A two-year piece of legislation is a step, but we have a mile's worth of steps before any economist could honestly declare our fiscal house to be in order.
And yet, we keep operating without a way forward. The Senate rejected a serious and honest plan passed by the House of Representatives, and the President dismissed a thoughtful outline from his own Debt Commission. We must get our fiscal house in order before it is too late. That continues to be my top priority as your Senator.