White House won’t prod Senate to pass budget

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
Font Size:

White House spokesman Jay Carney declined on Tuesday to urge Senate Democrats to pass a budget bill in 2013, and instead suggested the GOP is solely responsible for the repeated fiscal crises during President Barack Obama’s first term.

“Anyone who believes that the stalemates and confrontations we’ve had over fiscal and budget policy over the last couple of years have been because of the Senate action on the budget, I think, misunderstands the situation,” Carney declared.

“The president has been very clear about his budget priorities …. [and] we won’t allow the American economy, the American people be held hostage over whether … the Republicans are going to allow the debt ceiling to be raised.”

Carney’s statement came after a reporter asked during the midday press briefing whether White House officials “think that the Senate should be required to pass a budget.”

His refusal to answer the question follows growing GOP efforts to prod Senate Democrats to pass the first Senate budget bill since 2009.

Also on Tuesday, House Speaker John Boehner held a press conference to urge Democrats to pass a budget bill that could help slow the government’s fast-growing debt.

“It is time for us to come to a plan that will in fact balance the budget over the next 10 years,” he said. “It is our commitment to the American people, and we hope the Senate will do their budget, as they should have done over the last four years.”

The Democrat-controlled Senate, led by Sen. Harry Reid, has declined to draft and debate a budget resolution bill since 2009.

The GOP-controlled House passed its 10-year budget plan in April 2011, shortly after Republican reformers regained the majority from the Democratic Party.

A joint House and Senate budget bill can be used to set overall spending levels, and to allocate the available revenue between various purposes, such as defense spending and education spending.

Instead of passing a budget bill that could be merged with the House’s existing budget bill, the Senate has set budgets using last-minute, closed-door negotiations with GOP legislators and White House officials.

In late December, the same crisis mechanism was used to draft a short-term “fiscal cliff” budget to avert painful tax increases and delay mandatory spending cuts.

On Jan. 20, Sen. Chuck Schumer, the third-ranking Democrat in the Senate, predicted the party would try to pass a budget bill in 2013, four years after the last budget bill was passed in 2009.

“We’re going to do a budget this year and it’s going to have revenues in it,” he said in an NBC interview. “And our Republican colleagues better get used to that fact.”

However, previous predictions by Senate Democrats have not proved true.

“I’m going to mark up [a budget bill] the first week that we’re back in session,” Sen. Kent Conrad, then the Democratic chairman of the budget committee, told Fox News in April 2012.

The Senate’s refusal to pass a budget bill has shielded Senate Democrats from having to cast poll-damaging votes about unpopular spending programs. That has helped them keep their majority through the 2010 and 2012 election seasons.

In 2014, the Democratic majority will again be under pressure, partly because several Democratic senators from stats won by Gov. Mitt Romney are up for election.

Since 2011, Obama has loudly decried the frequent financial crises scheduled by himself and his fellow Democrats.

“That’s not a credible way to run this government,” he said during a Jan. 16 press conference.  “We’ve got to stop lurching from crisis to crisis to crisis, when there’s this clear path ahead of us that simply requires some discipline, some responsibility and some compromise,” he said, adding “that’s where we need to go.  That’s how this needs to work.”

However, Carney declined on Tuesday to urge fellow Democrats to draft a budget.

“Democratic leaders have addressed this question and have said that they intend to move forward with a budget … the president has been very clear about his budget priorities.  He has put forward specific and detailed budgets.  He has engaged with Republican leaders to try to achieve bipartisan compromise resolutions that reduce our deficit in a balanced and fair way, and he will continue to do that.”

“I would point you to what the Senate said — Senate leaders have said about their intentions,” Carney said, without suggesting that Senate Democrats should pass a budget.

Since 2009, the federal debt has grown by almost $6 trillion, or roughly $20,000 for every American, because of massive deficit spending pushed by Obama and his Democratic allies in the House and Senate. During that period, unemployment has nudged upwards, and wages have remained flat.

However, White House officials have largely escape press scrutiny, despite their frequent demands from the GOP.

For example, Carney frequently says the president wants to cut the nation’s 10-year budget deficit by $4 trillion. But he never mentions — and is rarely or never asked by the press — to estimate the forecasted size of that deficit.

A Jan. 4 estimate by the Congressional Budget Office predicted the 10-year deficit would reach $6.9 trillion.

That growth would push the federal government debt up from $11 trillion in 2009 to $23 trillion in 2022. That debt would be worth roughly $150,000 per working-age American, and would cost taxpayers $575 billion in annual interest-rate costs, assuming an interest rate of 4 percent.

Follow Neil on Twitter