After 3 years is the Senate finally doing a budget...REALLY?

The Senate Budget committee Chairman, Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND) announced yesterday that he will call a Senate Budget committee markup on a long-term budget for the nation. The announcement of the Senate budget committee meeting has garnered some praise, but you might want to hold your applause and keep reading. You see, under the Budget Impoundment and Control act of 1974, the Senate budget committee is required by the law to report out a budget resolution and have the entire United States Senate to consider it by April 15, of each year.

Not only are they required by law to produce a budget, the House and the President are also required to do so in one form or another. The Senate has failed to create and adopt a budget in the United States Senate for the last three years.

When this derelict in duty occurs, the Senate has created a process by which other Senators, who don't want to be deserters in their budgetary duties, can force the Senate to consider a budget resolution. It works like this. In the Senate, if the Senate budget committee fails to act on a budget resolution, then after a certain period of time, ANY Senator may introduce his/her version of a budget resolution and that resolution is afforded all of the special privileges that would ordinarily be given to the Senate Budget committee's document. Some of these special treatments include:

  • Simple majority vote required to adopt the resolution
  • Non-debatable motion to proceed to the Budget resolution (can't be filibustered)
  • Certain germaness limitations to keep the debate on message
  • 50 hours of debate time

The logic of this ruling is that if the Senate Budget committee fails to do its duty under the 1974 law, then that should not penalize and muzzle the entire United States Senate when it comes to their budget duties. With this in mind, if another Senator wants to do the responsible thing and offer a budget resolution, then the Senate should be able to consider it under the special treatments as outlined above, if the budget committees fails to do so.

Now, here's the rub. If the Senate budget committee considers a budget resolution, then that action is enough to block the ability of any other Senator to create a budget. The budget committee document doesn't have to be adopted by the Senate or the budget committee for that matter in order to be deemed "the Senate Budget resolution" by the Senate rule makers.

So you see, you may want to withhold your applause for the Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND) and his seemingly bold move to "consider" a budget in the Senate budget committee. Unless the Senate committee votes the resolution out of the committee and the Senate considers it on the Senate floor, then the Chairman's bold move is nothing more than a blocking tactic to stifle the entire Senate from being able to debate and vote on a budget of the United States. Senator Conrad's move to have a markup in the Senate budget committee is not bold in this writer's opinion, but rather a clever, strategic move making it impossible for the entire Senate to do the right thing and consider a budget resolution. Applause anyone?