Top Senate Republican: Don’t expect Congress to pass a budget this year

Chris Moody Contributor
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Congress will “likely” not pass a budget for the federal government in 2011 for a second year in a row, opting instead for a long-term agreement on a top line spending cap and funding extensions, the highest ranking Senate Republican said Thursday.

“I think I’m not being terribly risky here in suggesting that we’re not likely to get a budget this year, as agreed to by a Democratic Senate and a Republican House,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, told reporters after a morning meeting with President Obama.

Instead of a budget, McConnell suggested the parties would agree on spending level caps tied to the debt ceiling vote, “which then gives us the opportunity to pass individual bills and send them to the president for his response. That is the best thing we can do short term to bend spending down.”

Obama met with top congressional leaders Thursday to discuss a plan forward on raising the nation’s $14.3 trillion debt ceiling, which will likely be on the floor this summer.

McConnell said that Republicans have flat-out refused to consider tax hikes as part of a deal to raise the debt limit, but they had agreed that Social Security will not be part of the ongoing debate.

This is not to say that Congress plans to stop debating budget proposals. McConnell added that he expects the Senate to continue voting on budget measures put forth by members despite the shared pessimism on Capitol Hill that any of them would ever become law.

“Oh goodness, we may have plenty of votes in the Senate on plenty of budgets,” McConnell said, responding to a question about whether the Senate would vote on the House-passed budget written by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan or the soon-to-be-released proposal from Senate Budget Committee Chairman Sen. Kent Conrad. “What we’re talking about this morning is something that will actually become law, and be signed by the president. Now in terms of Senate votes, you know, Democrats may or may not actually try to do a budget in committee and we’ll have votes on the floor on the Ryan budget, the Toomey budget, other budgets, but I’m talking this morning about what may actually become the law of the United States of America between now and August.”

Congress has failed to pass a budget only four times, with both Republicans and Democrats at the helm.

Even if the two sides find a way to raise the debt limit, slash spending and keep the government running, failing to pass a budget will likely open them up to attacks. Republicans have blasted Democratic leadership for months for not passing a budget in 2010. House Oversight Committee Chairman in April went as far as saying that Republicans should be voted “out of office” if no budget is passed this year.

“There was no budget done last year; there was no series of appropriations done last year,” Rep. Darrell Issa, California Republican, said during an interview with Fox Business Network. “Quite frankly, if we do it again this year, I hope they would vote us out of office.”

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