Senate Dems fail to prepare formal budget for 2013

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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Democratic senators have again refused to prepare a formal budget to guide spending in 2013, prompting the Senate’s GOP budget chief, Sen. Jeff Sessions, to slam the Democrats’ leadership as irresponsible.

“It is a lack of will… and a lack of ability for the Democratic Party to unify around a vision for America,” said Sessions, the ranking member of the Senate Budge Committee.

“They don’t want to be held accountable for anything at a time when the largest threat to America is [the government’s fast-growing] debt,” the Alabama Senator said.

The public will recognize the problem, he said, even though the Democrats’ failure will not be highlighted by reporters and editorialists in the established media.

“I suspect they will move off of it quickly,” he said. “Wouldn’t want it to impact the election, you know?”

The federal debt is larger than the nation’s annual GDP of $15 trillion, and is growing by more than $1 trillion per year. The federal government has also promised retirement and health-care benefits to Americans that will require borrowing another $100 trillion over the next 75 years.

Without a formal budget process, the 2013 budget will be prepared in a closed-door, end-of-year conference meeting of Senate and House leaders.

The Democrats’ decision was revealed in a series of surprise announcements by Sen. Kent Conrad, the chairman of the Democratic-controlled budget committee.

In several statements Tuesday afternoon, Conrad announced that he would not try to pass a budget, that he would introduce his own draft budget for the committee to consider, and finally, that he would not schedule any votes on his draft budget.

Conrad, who is not running for reelection, shrugged off the GOP criticism.

“I’m not interested in furthering the political divide… I am focused on getting a positive result for the American people,” he said Tuesday. “I believe the best way to do that is to start in the middle with a plan that already has strong bipartisan support both in Congress and across the nation.”

“We truly were surprised at what happened today,” said Sessions, who had expected Conrad to fulfill his earlier promise to have the budget committee debate and then pass a budget for debate by the full Senate.

Sessions was reluctant to blame Conrad for the failure.

“He showed some gumption in going forward to lay out a [budget] plan, but it is very clear that some members of the committee, the entire Democratic conference and their leaders, did not want to have to cast votes.”

For example, Conrad’s personal budget-plan calls for $700 billion in extra taxes over a decade above the $2.6 trillion tax-boost in Obama’s spending plan, said Sessions. But Democrats don’t want to debate that plan, he said, because “even if they favor more taxes, they don’t want to be caught voting for it.”

Sessions heavily criticized the Democrats’ leader, Sen. Harry Reid, who is struggling to protect his narrow majority from defeat in the November elections.

“Throughout the last couple of years it has been very clear that Sen. Reid has … wanted to avoid taking tough votes whenever possible,” Sessions said.

However, Sessions said, the Democrats’ reluctance to vote will show the voters what’s wrong with Washington.

“I think it will help the voters [realize] the Senate Democrats haven’t had a budget in over 1,000 days,” he said. “It will help clarify issues… as we head into the fall.”

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