Whether or you agree with them or not, Republicans in both chambers of Congress have put forward bold and innovative budgets that look for ways to bring the nation back on a path to sustainability.
While Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Pat Toomney (R-PA) have offered their own separate proposals, the budget put forward by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), which has already passed the House, is the vehicle that most Republicans are choosing to reform spending, entitlements, and taxes. What are Senate Democrats pushing? Well, nothing:
April 29 will mark three years since Senate Democrats passed a budget. This dereliction of duty flagrantly violates the 1974 Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act.
“On or before April 15 of each year, the Congress shall complete action on a concurrent resolution on the budget for the fiscal year,” this statute states. Senate Democrats could not care less about this federal law.
This is a milestone in human sloth. While it has taken Majority “Leader” Harry Reid of Nevada and Senate Democrats 36 months to conceive zero budgets, House Republicans have delivered two - one for each year they governed.
Nonetheless, Mr. Reid said on Feb. 3: “We do not need to bring a budget to the floor this year. It’s done. We don’t need to do it.”
“This is the wrong time to vote on the floor,” Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad, North Dakota Democrat, declared Tuesday. “I don’t think we will be prepared to vote before the election.”
Despite not having produced a budget in over 750 days (more than two years), Senate Democrats have decided to continue to sit on their hands:
Democrats said they are close to agreement on a spending plan that would reduce borrowing by more than $4 trillion over the next decade, with about half the savings coming from higher taxes. That would offer a sharp contrast to the GOP budget, which relies entirely on deep cuts in spending.
But rather than subject a proposal for higher taxes to Republican attack, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) said he would “defer” action “because of the high-level bipartisan leadership negotiations that are currently underway” involving lawmakers from both parties and Vice President Biden.
“If you go through a partisan markup, it hardens people’s positions and makes it more difficult to get a bipartisan agreement,” said Conrad, a member of the Senate’s Gang of Six, which has been trying to draft its own debt-reduction framework.
“After four months in the group of six, trying to reach a bipartisan agreement is as difficult as anything I’ve ever been involved in,” Conrad said. “I want to give every chance for a bipartisan agreement to succeed.”
The decision to delay action is, of course, political. Democrats want to continue to criticize the budget passed by House Republicans, even though Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will not try to convince his colleagues to support the proposal.
Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) announced yesterday that he will not seek re-election in 2012, leaving open a seat is widely seen to be a likely pick-up for Republicans:
North Dakota Democratic Sen. Kent Conrad announced today that he will not seek reelection, creating a potentially prime pickup opportunity for Republicans in a GOP-leaning state.
“After months of consideration, I have decided not to seek reelection in 2012,” Conrad said in a letter to constituents. “There are serious challenges facing our state and nation, like a $14 trillion debt and America’s dependence on foreign oil. It is more important I spend my time and energy trying to solve these problems than to be distracted by a campaign for reelection.”
President Obama said in a statement that he was “saddened” about the news of Conrad’s retirement but added: “I look forward to working with him during the next two years on the important issues facing our country.”
Conrad, who currently chairs the Senate Budget Committee, has been in office since 1986 and risen to become one of the most influential — and intellectual — policy makers operating in the nation’s capital.
Conrad had been open about his ambivalence about running for another term and had taken several actions in recent months that suggested he was leaning against running again.
Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) is using last week’s vote in the Senate on a two-year earmark moratorium to decide on the Democrats his Senate Conservatives Fund should target in 2012:
South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint (R) is turning his attention to 2012 and using the vote this week on an earmark moratorium to pick his Democratic targets.
DeMint sent an email to the supporters of his Senate Conservatives Fund early Wednesday highlighting four Democrats who voted against the earmark ban, are up for re-election in 2012 and sit in states that John McCain (R) carried in 2008: Sens. Jon Tester (Mont.), Ben Nelson (Neb.), Kent Conrad (N.D.) and Joe Manchin (W.Va.).
The email is DeMint’s first foray into the 2012 cycle and suggests he will continue to direct Tea Party energy in 2012. DeMint was something of a kingmaker on the far right in 2010, backing several conservative insurgent primary challengers to establishment Republicans — such as Sen.-elect Marco Rubio (R) in Florida and Sen.-elect Mike Lee (R) in Utah.
In the email, DeMint called for unseating Tester, Nelson, Conrad and Manchin.
“These senators are nice folks but they have ignored the will of the American people and they must be replaced with principled conservatives in 2012,” he said. “That’s where the Senate Conservatives Fund comes in and it’s where you can help. We’ve already begun the process of building campaigns against these other liberals in the Senate who are driving our nation deeper and deeper into debt.”
DeMint went on to ask for money — stating that his fund will need “at least $4 million” to win the four races.
With just under 100 days until one of the largest tax hikes in American history, Democrats are holding off on extending any of the Bush tax cuts until a lame duck session after the mid-term election:
Only nine days ago Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had told reporters that the Senate would vote before lawmakers head home at the end of this month for a last-minute campaign push, but that now looks extremely unlikely.
“I don’t know if it’s possible timing-wise now,” said Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., told reporters before the meeting. “Given the amount of time that we have and where the votes are I’m not sure we can get it completed because the Republicans will filibuster one thing and you won’t have enough votes for the other, so you wind up not getting 60 votes. And where does that leave you?”
But it’s not merely a timing issue – it’s also a political one. Some Democrats prefer to delay the vote until the lame-duck session because Republicans have already started to accuse them of trying to raise taxes in the middle of a recession.
In addition to facing opposition from members of his own party who are embroiled in re-election battles, Reid also faces dissent from at least five Senate Democrats who agree with Republican plans to extend all the tax cuts – even for the wealthy – for at least a year or two as the economy recovers.
One of those Democrats – Senate Budget Committee chairman Kent Conrad, D-ND – told reporters that Senate action on the tax cuts can wait until later this year.
“It’s not imperative in the sense that anybody’s tax rate is going to change,” said Conrad.
Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) will support reconciliation for ObamaCare:
The Senate “was not designed to have everything require 60 votes,” Conrad said. “It wasn’t designed to prevent important action on the problems facing the country.” If a supermajority is effectively necessary to pass any piece of legislation, he added, this “puts a great deal of pressure on going to more of a reconciliation process to deal with things.”
…Conrad, for one, didn’t sound like a man with doubts about the idea. He said, “Frankly I think we have to reconsider the rules by which this body is governed,” because the Senate “is in danger of becoming dysfunctional,” and “there’s going to be a building demand in the country to change the system.”
This is a change of heart for Conrad, who previously came out against using this tactic, meant for reconciling budgets, for major policy:
I don’t believe reconciliation was ever intended for this purpose. It doesn’t work well for writing major, substantive legislation.
Well, I guess this is more than a change of heart…that’s a 180 degree turn from his previous position. Are there any Democrats in the Senate with some integrity?
So much for open government in the Peace Garden State:
MOHALL - What was billed as a “health-care listening session” featuring Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., ended abruptly after the senator heard from just two residents of the Good Samaritan Society Center and announced that he was out of time. As Conrad made a quick exit, many in the crowd that had spilled out into the hallways could be heard expressing their shock and disappointment at not having a chance to quiz the senator about the looming health-care bill or other pressing national issues.
“Isn’t that something. This is America where we are supposed to be heard,” said one attendee to anyone who would listen.