Yesterday the two year bipartisan budget proposal that passed in the House earlier this week was approved by the Senate on a vote of 64-36, indicating at least some congressional bipartisanship. The new budget proposal, which has the support of President Obama, should be signed into law within the next couple days thereby preventing the possibility of another government shutdown for at least two years. But even though this budget proposal seems like a victory on its face, it is actually a display of spectacular failure.
Those of you who have been following the progress of this bill over the last few days likely already know of the damaging amendments it contains. Billions of dollars worth of new usage fees for the TSA and Customs Bureau which will be transferred to the citizenry in the form of higher travel costs. Increases in premiums for federal insurance of private employee retirement pensions which will likely have a negative impact on pensions. And of course billions of dollars in cuts to Military retirement payments in the form of a reduction in cost of living allowance. Like me, many of you out there are upset over this horrendous treatment of our nation’s Veterans. But even though these provisions contained within this bill represent a failure of our government, they do not represent the entire breadth of that failure.
Every year since 1921, with the passage of what has come to be known as the Budget and Accounting Act, the President of the United States has been required to submit a budget plan at the start of every calendar year to Congress for its consideration for the next fiscal year. This law essentially gave the responsibility of passing a rational federal budget plan to the Office of the President. The reason for doing so was to provide some sense of leadership and responsibility to what were often brutal and drawn out budget debates. It makes sense, the President is supposed to be the leader of our nation, why not provide the President with the ability and responsibility to lead on an issue as vital as the federal budget. Unfortunately our current President chooses not to avail himself of this opportunity to lead and this latest budget bill is a prime example.
President Obama has not passed a successful budget proposal through Congress since 2009. The budget plan for fiscal year 2010 (voted on in early 2009) was the last time Obama proposed a budget plan that actually made it through Congress. Many Obama supporters are quick to say that 2010 is the year that a wave of Republicans were elected to office and it is their obstructionist ways that have prevented Obama from passing a budget. While it is true that a surge of Republican victories allowed them to retake control of the House and gain seats in the Senate, they are not responsible for our current budget woes.
The trouble began in early 2010 when President Obama proposed a budget for FY 2011 that included massive tax increases triggered by allowing the so-called Bush tax cuts to expire starting January 1st, 2011. His inability to lead and broker a compromise resulted in no budget being passed for FY 2011 and started us down this long road of continuing resolutions. A continuing resolution (CR) is a budgetary stop gap measure used in place of an official budget plan. It basically continues government spending at whatever the current level happens to be for a period of typically a few months. They’ve been around for a long time but have never been used the way we’ve been using them at current. Since September of 2010 our government has been running on a series of continuing resolutions rather than on actual budget plans. This is the reason we keep having these budget debates every six months. When the continuing resolution expires Congress, without a Presidential budget model in place, scrambles to pass a new resolution to keep the government working.
It was initially thought that Congress, following the September 2010 CR bill, would have a new budget in place shortly after the New Year. It did not. Another CR was passed in early 2011 to carry us to fiscal year 2012 which began in October of 2011. So the focus then shifted to the FY 2012 budget. Again President Obama authored a budget plan and sent it to Congress. It was defeated in spectacular fashion. When the President’s plan went up for a vote in the Senate it was defeated 0-97. Not a single Senator from either party voted in favor of his plan, it was that bad. Too much spending, too much borrowing and too little Congressional support. So we spent yet another year running on CR bills. Fast forward to early 2012 when President Obama’s FY 2013 budget plan arrived in Congress. The President was again hopeful, and he was again defeated in even grander fashion. After first being defeated in the House 0-414, it was then defeated in the Senate 0-99. You read that correctly, not a single person in all of Congress voted in favor of President Obama’s FY 2013 budget proposal. That is how terrible Obama’s budget plans have been. That is how epically he has failed. The country has been running for three years without an actual budget governing our spending. The last few years represent a monumental failure of leadership on the President’s behalf.
Which brings us to the present. Today we’re all finding out that last night a new two year budget plan has been put in place after gaining approval in the Senate. This is actually a pretty stunning moving on the part of Congress. Think about what this represents. Congress, on their own, has passed a budget plan for the next two years. Completely bypassing the President. That is how little faith Congress has in President Obama’s ability to lead on this issue. They have removed him entirely from the process. They understand that if they continue to rely on him for leadership they will continue to get nowhere. What amuses me the most about this entire debacle is that Obama is hailing this as some sort of victory. He seems completely oblivious to the massive insult Congress has dealt him. But as we have seen from President Obama over the last few years (Fast and Furious, Benghazi, IRS abuses, NSA spying, etc…) obliviousness seems to be a trend with this President.
photo credit: Thomas Hawk