As face-saving efforts go, this one’s pretty meager.
Breaking from a three-day private conference, House Republicans today acknowledged that they are retreating from their demands for major entitlement cuts in return for raising the debt ceiling. But they do have conditions.
First, they will agree to extend the debt-ceiling limit only for three months, meaning that they intend to put us through this vapid exercise time and again, a process that should do wonders for confidence in the financial markets. It’s petty gamesmanship, particularly from a party that has done so much whining about government-caused “uncertainty.”
Second, they will extend the debt ceiling further if and only if the Senate passes a budget resolution by April 15.
And if the Senate doesn’t do as the House demands by passing a legally meaningless budget resolution? Will the House retaliate by forcing a default on our national debt, pushing the economy into a likely recession?
No. It will not. And people who push such nonsense are difficult to take seriously.
Oh, and one more thing. House Republicans also propose to stop paychecks for members of Congress until such a resolution passes. It’s a nice little effort at grandstanding, except for the obnoxious fact that it is unconstitutional: “No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of representatives shall have intervened.”
Let’s also be clear about what “passing a budget” really means. Under the process, the House passes a resolution expressing its spending priorities; the Senate does likewise. Then the two resolutions are reconciled into what is known as a concurrent budget resolution and passed by both chambers.
However, a budget resolution does not actually appropriate or spend a dime of taxpayers’ money. It does not levy a penny’s worth of taxes. The document does not go to the president for his signature, and it is legally binding on neither chamber. It is worth the paper it is printed on and not much more.
Recent budget resolutions passed in the House have been exercises in fantasy, including demands for converting Medicare into a voucher program and slashing taxes for wealthier Americans. Senate leadership has concluded that it isn’t worth the time and floor debate needed to create a Senate budget when it clearly has no chance of being reconciled with the House resolution for adoption.
It’s also important to note that this is not a new situation. According to the Congressional Research Service, Congress also did not pass a concurrent budget resolution in 1998, 2002, 2004 and 2006, all years in which the GOP controlled both houses of Congress. Somehow, the Union managed to survive.
– Jay Bookman