Top Budget Committee Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions and his colleagues on the panel are telling Democratic Chairman Kent Conrad not to ram his budget down their throats.
The lawmakers say Conrad ought to allow at least three days to consider the high-profile budget and bring the proposal before an open process in committee, allowing amendments.
“In recent years, budgets have been presented, marked up and passed out of committee in less than 48 hours—with hardly any time for the public or committee members to read, much less analyze, the resolutions’ content,” says an April 26 letter from the group.
“We therefore request that the proposed budget resolution, the Chairman’s mark for fiscal year 2012, be released and posted online no less than three days before we first meet to mark-up the budget so that every member of the Committee, and the public at large, can have a better chance to consider the proposal and ask questions about it,” the letter says.
The issue is important because Conrad’s budget could incorporate an agreement by a bipartisan group of senators negotiating a long-term spending deal. The group, in classic Washington parlance, is called the “gang of six.”
But how the group’s proposal will fare in the Senate, let alone in the House, remains in question since almost no details are known about what they’ll propose.
The issue is uncertain because Conrad’s budget may not reflect the gang of six’s agreement at all. Senate insiders aren’t sure exactly what he’ll do.
The letter from the Republicans, then, is a preemptive shot against the bow declaring GOP senators won’t be cowed into submission on any agreement without fully vetting it first.
The timeframe demanded in the letter also matches the House Republicans’ “72 hour rule,” which requires bills to be posted online for three days before they’re voted on.
Sessions and the other senators in the letter say the time is critical to evaluating the proposal.
“[H]aving an open, public process in the Senate allows the American people to directly participate in the decision over how we spend their money. The American people do not, and should not, trust Washington with their tax dollars—for years it has frittered away those tax dollars and brought our nation to the brink of insolvency.
“Only by holding an open and thorough review of the budget in committee can we directly engage the American people in a process that, by right, belongs to them. Our debate can be broadcast across the country so that the millions who are impacted by our decisions can participate in their making. It is they, not us, who are in charge,” the letter says.