White House derides GOP request for budget debate

Neil Munro | White House Correspondent

White House spokesman Jay Carney on Thursday derided renewed GOP requests for the Democrat-run Senate to draft and debate a budget bill.

The requests “aren’t serious,” Carney told reporters at the White House press conference Dec. 6.

The dismissal reflects the Democrats’ desire to force House Republicans to negotiate a budget fix with President Barack Obama, rather than with the fragmented Democratic caucus in the Senate.

That centralized process would be contrary to the budget process outlined in the Constitution, but it would protect Senate Democrats from having to participate in unpopular floor votes and help the president use the media and cooperative businesses to increase pressure on GOP legislators.

The Democrats’ strategy “is to be meeting in secret and then plop down on the floor of the Senate in the last hour with some sort of coerced agreement,” Sen. Jeff Sessions, the leading Republican on the Senate budget committee, said Dec. 6.

GOP leaders have pushed for Obama to submit a budget for review by the Senate and the House. (RELATED: House speaker recruits 2011 Obama for fiscal-cliff talks)

“If the president doesn’t agree with our proposals and our outline, I think he has an obligation to send one [budget proposal] to Congress — one that can pass both houses of Congress,” Speaker of the House John Boehner said Dec. 5.

The Republican Senate leader, Mitch McConnell, has also pushed the Democratic Senate leader, Harry Reid, to draft, debate and pass a budget fix for the so-called fiscal cliff.

The budget committee has been sidelined since 2009, because Reid has prevented any budget debate in the Senate. Instead, Reid has used closed-door, last-minute deals between House, White House and Senate leaders to complete annual federal budgets.

That strategy has helped Reid keep the Democratic majority in the Senate, because it shields Democrats from having to publicly support unpopular spending during floor votes.

But the GOP requests for an open budget process are “the kind of political games that aren’t serious,” Carney told reporters Dec. 6.

Democrats face a “filibuster” because they don’t have 60 votes in the Senate, Carney complained.

That’s a problem for the White House, because the Democratic majority would have to compromise with the Republican minority before it could agree on a budget that would later be merged with a draft House budget.

“You’re going along with the gamesmanship here,” Carney snapped at one reporter, who asked him about the GOP’s request for a budget debate.

“We’re trying to be serious in the negotiations,” he insisted, adding that “we’ve seen no counter-proposal” from the GOP to the president’s pitch for a $1.6 trillion tax increase.

Obama’s proposed 10-year budget plan would raise taxes by $1.6 trillion, and still push the nation’s debt to $25 trillion in 2022, Sessions said in a Dec. 6 speech on the Senate floor.

The plan trims only $400 billion from cumulative deficits that would total $9 trillion over the next decade, Sessions added.

The budget-busting numbers in the president’s plans are hidden by careful manipulation, Sessions argued.

“This would not be possible if we had the [budget] plan on the floor so it could be voted in the light of day,” he said.

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