U.S. Rep. Tom Cole
WASHINGTON, D.C. —
Much of the recent coverage of 11th-hour legislative deals and partisan stalemates focuses on negotiations between House Republican leadership and the White House. Yet the most underreported factor in the habitual Washington gridlock of the past two years is the failure of the Democratic Senate to do its job.
Budgeting is one of the most basic responsibilities of governing, and each chamber of Congress is required by law to approve a budget resolution by April of each year. Yet Senate Democrats have not passed a budget in nearly four years, ignoring this statute, as well as the continuing economic challenges and looming debt crisis that make the budget process more important than ever. While House Republicans have continued to pass responsible budgets, including a 2012 budget that would cut spending by $4 trillion, the Democratic Senate’s refusal to either consider our plans or contribute one of their own puts a halt to the budget process and makes meaningful debt reduction virtually impossible.
In addition to the breakdown of the established budget processes, Senate inaction has provoked one legislative and fiscal crisis after another, including the recent fiscal cliff debacle. House Republicans voted to avert the fiscal cliff in May of 2012 — well in advance of the Dec. 31 deadline. A functional Senate would have considered this legislation, amended it as they saw fit and then headed to a conference committee to hash out the difference and produce a final bill. But Harry Reid and Senate Democrats refused to take up the House legislation or pass their own plan, leading to the chaotic, end-of-year scramble to prevent massive tax increases.
This is not an effective way to govern — especially for a nation on the verge of bankruptcy. Our national debt is so massive that it would require $52,000 from every man, woman and child in America to pay it off. That’s 35 percent higher than the debt-per-person ratio in Greece.
To force Senate Democrats to view their budgetary responsibility with the urgency it deserves, the House recently passed the “No Budget, No Pay Act.” This legislation ensures that Senate Democrats will not be paid if they refuse to do their jobs and pass a budget by April. The reaction from the Senate was swift, with the Senate Budget Committee chair announcing the same week that the Senate will indeed attempt to pass a budget this year.
In our divided government, the Senate budget will surely differ significantly from the House Republican plan to balance the budget in 10 years. However, requiring Senate Democrats to finally put forth their fiscal priorities is the first step toward an orderly budgeting process that prevents a repeat of the last-minute fiscal negotiations that harm the economy and jeopardize our credit rating.
U.S. REP. TOM COLE, R-Moore, represents Oklahoma’s 4th Congressional District.