GOP may use debt limit bill to force Senate Dems to pass a budget
It would certainly be a novelty - Senate Democrats who haven't passed a budget in nearly 4 years actually obeying the law and coming up with spending guidelines.
Tuesday marks the 1,350th day since the Senate passed a budget. The law requires Congress to pass a budget every year, on the grounds that Americans deserve to know how the government plans to spend the trillions of taxpayer dollars it collects, along with dollars it borrows at the taxpayers' expense. But Majority Leader Harry Reid, who last allowed a budget through the Senate in April 2009, has ignored the law since then.
There's no mystery why. The budget passed by large Democratic majorities in the first months of the Obama administration had hugely elevated levels of spending in it. By not passing a new spending plan since, Reid has in effect made those levels the new budgetary baseline. Congress has kept the government going with continuing resolutions based on the last budget signed into law.
"I think it should be a firm principle that we should not raise the debt ceiling until we have a plan on how the new borrowed money will be spent," Sessions told me Monday in a phone conversation from his home in Alabama. "If the government wants to borrow money so it can spend more, then the government ought to tell the Congress and the American people how they will spend it."
There are no specific proposals yet, but under this scenario Republicans would insist on a debt ceiling agreement that includes (among other things) a requirement that Congress pass a budget by a specific date. If that doesn't happen, there would be some sort of enforcement mechanism, perhaps an arrangement whereby the debt ceiling was lowered, or one in which Congress would have to muster a supermajority to raise it again.
Ignoring their statutory obligations is nothing new for either Senate Democrats or the Obama administration. But this idea has a lot of merit in that having to demonstrate where our tax dollars will be spent puts Senate Dems on the spot. If they want to run trillion dollar deficits, they are going to have to show why it is necessary.
Of course, it is unlikely that Harry Reid will allow this to happen. But blocking it shows the intent of Senate Democrats to hide their profligacy from the voter.