An overdue senatorial duty: Passing a federal budget
Why is “man bites dog” news?
Because humans rarely sink their teeth into canines.
Why is “Senate plans to pass a budget” news?
Because Congress’ upper chamber has long ducked its fundamental responsibility to approve federal spending plans.
The U.S. Senate, under Majority Leader Harry Reid, last passed a budget on April 29, 2009. That appalling senatorial fiscal neglect includes 2010, when Democrats controlled both houses of Congress.
On Sunday, however, the third-ranking Democrat in the Senate, New York’s Chuck Schumer, said the body will pass a spending plan this year — and generated headlines across the nation.
He also said: “We’re going to do a budget this year and it’s going to have revenues in it. And our Republican colleagues better get used to that fact.”
Translation of “revenues”: tax hikes.
Though we’re wary about the notion of raising taxes on a still-sluggish economy, we recognize the need for more “revenues” to help reduce deficits that have topped $1 trillion during each year of President Barack Obama’s first term.
But we’re especially wary of the deeper spending cuts scheduled to kick in near the end of the decade-long budget deal that ended the year-ending “fiscal cliff” drama.
The Soviet Union’s laughable “Five Year Plans” for agricultural production were far-fetched enough. Any 10-year plan that promises to finally trim federal spending much later — while raising federal taxes now — sounds like a sucker’s bet.
Still, any Senate budget should be better than what we’ve gotten the last three years — no Senate budget. At least taxpayers will have some idea about where their senators stand on the bottom line.
The Republican House will almost assuredly pass a budget of its own — as it has during the past two years after the GOP regained control of the lower chamber in the 2010 elections. Thus, the expectation of that legislative accomplishment rates no headlines.
That next House budget will also likely contain more spending restraint than the Senate version — assuming there really is a Senate version coming.
Regardless of how different they are, though, budgets passed by a Democratic Senate and a Republican House would create starting points for reasonable compromise.
That’s the way our democratic republic is designed to work.
And voters elect U.S. senators to work at — among other things — the crucial task of passing a federal budget.