On Sunday’s “Meet the Press” on MSNBC, White House Chief of Staff Jacob Lew explained away the Senate’s then-1,019-day failure to pass a budget by misleading viewers on Senate rules.
When pressed by host David Gregory to explain the Senate’s failure, and how the government has continued to fund itself despite this failure, Lew, who previously served as the White House’s budget director for both President Barack Obama and President Bill Clinton, said, “One of the things about the United States Senate that I think the American people have realized is that it takes 60 — and not 50 — votes to pass something. And there has been Republican opposition to anything that some Democrats have tried to do, so it is a challenge in the United States Senate to pass legislation when there is not that willingness to work together.”
Senate rules dictate that a budget vote cannot be filibustered, and requires only a simple majority to pass. According to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, “The budget resolution is a ‘concurrent’ congressional resolution, not an ordinary bill, and therefore does not go to the president for his signature or veto. It also requires only a majority vote to pass, and its consideration is one of the few actions that cannot be filibustered in the Senate.”
The Democratic caucus gained a majority in the United States Senate in 2007, won a super majority in the 2008 election that saw Barack Obama win the presidency, and held that super majority until Massachusetts Republican Sen. Scott Brown won a special election in December 2009. Despite taking further losses in the 2010 elections, the Democrats still maintain the majority.
Clearing any doubt that his statement was not a mistake, and was specifically in reference to the budget, the former Obama budget director told CNN’s “State of the Union,” “But we also need to be honest — you can’t pass a budget in the Senate of the United States without 60 votes, and you can’t get 60 votes without bipartisan support. So unless Republicans are willing to work with Democrats in the Senate, [Senate Majority Leader] Harry Reid is not going to be able to get a budget passed. And I think he was reflecting the reality of that that could be a challenge.”
“This is the chief of staff, who ran the OMB,” Lenwood Brooks, policy director of the fiscally conservative, non-partisan group Public Notice, told The Daily Caller. “I can’t believe it.”
A poll commissioned by Public Notice shows that 93 percent of Republicans, 85 percent of independents and 74 percent of Democrats are concerned that Reid’s Democratic majority has failed to pass a budget in what is now 1,021 days.
“There’s no question its an issue,” Brooks told TheDC. “It’s an issue certain Republicans, and those in the House, will continue to run on. It will be three years without a Senate budget this April.”
“That being said,” Brooks continued, “I think Obama is going to try to separate himself from this as much as possible.”
Despite a strong campaign-trail effort by Obama and the Democratic Party, the Public Notice p0ll showed that Americans were skeptical that the president’s budget, which was released on Monday, would cut spending, reduce taxes or improve the economy — all things the public cares about.
Conducted by The Tarrance Group, the poll showed that 75 percent of those polled hope to see the White House’s budget cut spending, but it isn’t likely they were surprised by the $901 billion in deficit spending that the president’s $3.8 trillion proposal demands — only 31 percent believed the budget would “actually cut spending.” (RELATED: Obama’s $3.8 trillion budget feast covered by $8 billion job-training wafer)
On the other hand, 79 percent indicated that government spending is very important and 80 percent that the debt is very important, with 73 percent saying that, “the economy is extremely or very impacted by the debt.”
Along with the poll results, and alongside shocking images of anti-austerity rioting in Greece, Public Notice Research & Education Fund released a video titled “Washington Could Learn a Lot from Europe,” drawing comparisons between the chaos gripping that continent and the path the United States may be headed down. (RELATED: Krauthammer calls Obama budget ‘worthy of Greece,’ ‘truly scandalous’ [VIDEO])
The ad began airing on Bloomberg, CNN, Fox News Channel, MSNBC and CNBC on Monday — a day when front pages across the country featured dramatic pictures of rioting in Greece, and the day the president released his budget.
The Public Notice/Tarrance Group poll was based on national telephone interviews with 800 likely voters between Feb. 6 and Feb. 8. The margin of error is 3.5 percent.