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A Budget in Name Only

February 12, 2021
Weekly Columns

The House and Senate recently passed long overdue budget resolutions for the fiscal year that is already well underway. However, more unfortunate than the late delivery of these budgets is the fact that both completely skipped consideration in the committees of jurisdiction, and both were written by Democratic leaders who are intent on pushing through their partisan priorities and going it alone on additional coronavirus relief. In fact, members of the committees had not even convened yet this Congress when Democratic leaders rushed their resolutions to the floor of both chambers.

For background, members of the Budget Committees in the House and Senate are tasked with writing the annual budget resolution, and that undertaking is supposed to occur well before the fiscal year begins. While reforms are absolutely needed to make the budget process work better and on time in Congress, crafting a budget traditionally includes committee members working through various hearings on such topics as the trajectory of our economy and national debt, considering expert testimony and perspectives and then using that information to come up with a plan.

As a former and longtime member of the House Budget Committee, I always valued working through the various hearings and steps in the budget writing process, listening to my colleagues and proposing my own ideas for inclusion in the blueprint. It is disappointing that none of those important steps in the process happened last year – when the fiscal year 2021 budget should have been written, considered and advanced by the committee. Sadly, it did not occur then because it was not a politically convenient tool for Democrats.

Specifically, the reason Democrats recently chose to push forward with a budget was to facilitate use of a special tool called “reconciliation,” which allows certain legislation to pass the Senate with 51 votes, rather than the usual 60. The Senate’s budget, which I did not support but passed both chambers this month, included reconciliation instructions that has already triggered committees to write legislation to increase spending by as much as $1.9 trillion. The focus of that spending is supposed to be on additional coronavirus relief. However, it is expected that Democrats may also use reconciliation as an opportunity to fund their radical policies completely unrelated to the pandemic.

Considering President Biden’s promise to unify the country, I regret that Democrats in Congress are taking an approach that will undoubtedly lead to partisan relief and funding of radical policies. It is particularly disappointing after Republicans and Democrats worked together to pass bipartisan coronavirus relief packages on five separate occasions last year totaling nearly $4 trillion. Sadly, this course of action will only deepen divisions, rather than pave the way for unity and productive work for the American people in the legislative branch. This is indeed a disservice to the American people.