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GOP Spoiling for Budget Fight

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad has said his committee will mark up a budget proposal, but more recently he noted the Budget Control Act has already set the budget.

Republicans argue that to rely just on the debt ceiling deal and not make an effort to pass a budget resolution that further addresses the deficit is cowardly and shirks a basic responsibility. They also charge that Reid is simply trying to protect Democrats from difficult votes ahead of the November elections.

“I think everyone understands that ... [Reid] doesn’t want to expose his members to hard votes, but that is what we get elected to do,” National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (Texas) said.

Cornyn, also a member of the Budget Committee, said he hopes to hit Democrats hard on the issue.

“The growth in the debt, I think, is directly related to the fact that we don’t have a budget and why we haven’t done what the president’s own bipartisan fiscal commission has recommended,” he said.

Cornyn added, “I think they have a very hard case to sell.”

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), also a Budget Committee member, said if Democrats do not bring a budget by mid-April, he intends to hold up routine business in the Senate to protest the lack of a budget. Under current law, Congress is expected to pass a budget by April 15.

“We better have a budget by April 15 or I will make a lot of noise. I will start withholding my consent on a regular basis here to make the point,” Johnson said.

“We need to make sure the Democratic Senators vote for something,” Johnson said. “They should be presenting something. They can pass a budget with 51 votes; they have 53. There is no reason this body should not pass a budget so the American people can see what the game plan is.”

Last year, Reid also declined to bring up a Democratic budget. Instead, he called a vote on the House GOP’s budget in order to vote it down. Democrats argue that budget would have made crippling changes and cuts to Medicare, among other things.

But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) forced a vote on his version of the president’s budget, and several GOP Senators muscled their budget blueprints onto the floor as well. All of them failed to win a majority.

Under the law, the Budget Committee is scheduled to clear a budget resolution by April 1. After that date, Senators are free to try to bring their own budget proposals to the floor.

Republicans seldom miss an opportunity to note that Senate Democrats have not passed a budget resolution in three years, and they recently highlighted the thousandth day without a budget plan — Jan. 24, by the GOP’s count.

“Today is the thousandth day since the Democrats ... have passed a budget,” McConnell said. “Americans want to know why is Washington continuing to spend money we don’t have and living beyond its means. And of course, the first step is to adopt a budget, whether you’re Congress, whether you’re a family, whether you’re a small business, because that forces you to make hard choices that apparently [Reid] and his colleagues do not want to make.”

McConnell added that he intends to pass a budget plan every year if Republicans win back the majority.

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