America is now six months away from the November elections. Senate Democrats have decided to put off dealing with problems that must be solved by the end of this year. If we continue at this pace, the Senate will have to resolve some of the country’s most pressing tax, spending and broader policy issues during a lame-duck Congress.
By deciding to coast for the next six months, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and his caucus have taken sole ownership of Washington gridlock. Twenty-six Tuesdays from now, Democrats will deserve another shellacking from American voters.
During this 112th Congress, the Senate already appears to be the laziest in 20 years.
• It has been more than three years since the Senate passed a budget.
• In 2011, the Senate spent more than half of the year out of session — 195 days.
• As of Monday morning, the Senate had taken just 87 recorded votes in 2012 — 100 fewer than it took by this point in 2009.
• Of those votes, 54 have dealt with just three bills. Another 17 were to confirm judges.
Democrats have wasted much of their time on messaging votes they knew would fail. The “Buffett Rule” is a perfect example. Under the Constitution, bills to raise revenue must originate in the House. Senate Democrats know this, but they spent four days on the bill anyway.
Because of the time Democrats have wasted on irresponsible political gimmicks, the country will suffer. They’re planning to cram an overwhelming volume of major issues into the post-election lame-duck session.
After the elections, there are only 55 calendar days before the end of the year. It’s just not enough time to responsibly handle all of the things Democrats have put off.
Bills awaiting consideration account for billions or trillions of dollars each. This is not the kind of legislation that should be taken lightly or rushed through on deadline. Especially not when we have plenty of time for proper debate if Senate Democrats would only schedule the votes now.
There are 109 tax provisions and at least 25 policy issues that need to be taken up by the end of the year. Most of this legislation is not optional; these are urgent priorities. The failed stimulus, along with Obamacare’s long list of failures, show what happens when Congress passes laws in a rush. The Senate should be taking the time now to get the right answer, not just the answer that best fits the political calendar.
Most crucial is the budget. The Senate has not passed a single one of the 12 appropriations bills this year. Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) summed up his party’s attitude by saying that now is “the wrong time” to talk about doing a budget.
The Defense Authorization Act will lapse by the end of the year. So will the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and important farm and surface transportation programs.
President Barack Obama is expected to ask for his fifth increase of the debt ceiling during the lame-duck Congress. At the rate he’s been spending for the past three years, he will need more than $1 trillion to cover another year’s deficit.
If Washington doesn’t act during the lame-duck Congress, the Obama tax hike will take effect Jan. 1. That would amount to $4.5 trillion in higher taxes during the next 10 years. The death tax alone will jump to 55 percent.
The stakes could not be higher. The entire U.S. economy could hang in the balance of what happens between Election Day and Dec. 31. Recently the Federal Reserve warned that we are headed for a “fiscal cliff” and called on Congress to act.
Under the best of circumstances, resolving any of these weighty issues could easily take weeks of debate. Stall tactics by Senate Democrats will force a year’s worth of important work into eight short weeks.
The American people expect their elected representatives to lead, not just run out the clock. By wasting time on gimmicks instead of governing, Democrats have shown they do not deserve to lead.
Sen. John Barrasso (Wyo.) is chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee.