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If You Can't Budget, You Can't Govern

A Commentary By Debra J. Saunders

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

"If you can't budget, you can't govern," Rep. John Spratt Jr., D-S.C., proclaimed in 2006 when the House GOP leadership chose to dispense with passing a budget resolution.

Now that the Dems run the House, Spratt is chairman of its Budget Committee and the April 15 deadline for passing a budget resolution is a niggling detail, easily ignored. House Democrats have decided to not even try to pass a budget resolution before this fiscal year expires on Sept. 30 -- and may well delay passage until after the November elections.

As the congressional newspaper The Hill reported Monday, Spratt announced that in lieu of a 2011 budget resolution, the House is likely to pass a "functional equivalent" measure that leaves out inconvenient budget numbers -- most notably an annual operating deficit averaging around $1 trillion over the next five to 10 years.

In April, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had assured reporters that her House would pass a real budget resolution. But the far left wants to spend more, while the center left wants modest cuts in spending -- or at least not to be tied to the far left's bills that further increase the national debt.

When in doubt, the default position in Washington -- for either party -- has been to spend more of other people's money.

The Budget Impoundment and Control Act of 1974 created the April 15 deadline, although it has not been unusual for Capitol Hill to pass said legislation late. Four times since, Congress baldly failed to approve budget resolutions -- all four times, the GOP controlled the House.

Now the Democrats are about to join the rule-flouting club, but with their own unique contribution. Under Pelosi, the House didn't even propose a budget resolution. House Democrats aren't even faking at faking it.

President Obama has said that he wants to reduce discretionary spending. Toward that end, the president named a deficit commission. Earlier this month, White House Budget Director Peter Orszag asked federal agencies not involved in national security to list savings in their shops that could cut spending by 5 percent next year.

But this year, Democrats won't pass a budget resolution -- which means there will be no limit on spending in next year's 12 spending authorization bills. Democratic proposals to cut budgets by 2 percent won't see a floor vote.

As the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget noted last month, "The very reasonable push to reduce some discretionary spending has left the House unable to agree on a plan." In short, D.C. lawmakers cannot curb the growth in government spending to save their own necks.

As the Weekly Standard's Stephen F. Hayes wrote, "(T)hey're deliberately refusing to offer a budget until after the November elections. They're simply choosing to ignore the law."

The House Democrats must figure that they have a better chance of hanging onto their offices by doing nothing -- and they may be right. As Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., told the Los Angeles Times, "Name one person who won or lost an election because they didn't get a budget resolution passed."

Come November, with any luck, voters will be able to name more than one.

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Views expressed in this column are those of the author, not those of Rasmussen Reports.

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