Byron York at the Washington Examiner was way ahead on the House Republicans’ new plan to make the debt ceiling contingent on a Senate budget resolution. As York reported Monday, the idea of tying the debt ceiling to a Senate budget resolution is actually the brainchild of Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, the ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee and the GOP’s leading critic over Senate Democrats’ failure to pass a budget.
As York points out, there’s virtually no incentive for Democrats to make a new budget. The last time Congress passed a budget was in April 2009, when Democrats had a majority in the House of Representatives and a supermajority in the Senate. As a result, that budget was loaded with Democratic spending priorities.
The House has passed the Paul Ryan budget plan, a non-starter in the Senate. Rather than come up with their own new spending plan, however, Senate Democrats simply kept the government funded with continuing resolutions, based on the last budget passed by Congress.
Senate Democrats claim that there is no point in passing a budget resolution because they wouldn’t have the 60 votes needed to avoid a filibuster.
But that claim is only half true. There are special rules for Senate budget resolutions, including a debate time limit, so it actually is possible to pass a budget with a simple majority. But the Senate budget doesn’t actually go into effect until the Senate passes another Senate Resolution, which can be filibustered. So without 60 votes, the budget resolution would be a hollow gesture.
Congress tried to resolve this problem during the last debt ceiling fight by creating a supercommittee to reach a budget agreement. Obviously, we know how that turned out.
As polling has shown, Republicans are bearing the brunt of the blame for Washington’s budget gridlock.
The new debt ceiling plan — which would raise the debt ceiling for three months, but make a long-term increase contingent on a Senate budget — gives House Republicans a chance to the turn the tables. Rather than focus on spending cuts — a message that has so far failed miserably — they are trying to shift the onus to President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
It’s not a HUGE win for the GOP if the Democrats go along with this, but it at least puts some attention on the Democrats’ spending plans, and that’s better than nothing.
It’s unclear if this gambit will work; despite the short-term concession, Republicans are still trying to use the debt ceiling as a bargaining chip to push through spending cuts. But at least they are ready to play offence.
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