Enforce No Budget No Pay

There have been so many budget battles in Washington over the past few years that the public has by and large tuned them out. From my perspective the Republicans, even when they may have had a solid point or two, have always managed to take those points to such an extreme that they have made a budgetary hash out of it. The very fact that their own budgetary numbers simply have not worked has never stopped them from making ridiculous claims in order to satisfy their donor base. The Democrats have not exactly covered themselves in budgetary glory, but the President has made reasonable attempts to bridge budgetary differences with Republicans, who were simply not able to compromise on anything of substance.

One area where the Republicans were able to actually score some public relations points against the Democrats and the President was the failure of Senate Democrats to pass a budget for four years. Although that was not a substantive issue it allowed Republicans to paint Senate Democrats as not serious on enacting budget reforms. In fact House Republicans, in dealing with the debt ceiling this year, passed a bill that included what they called “No Budget, No Pay“,attempting to embarrass Senate Democrats. Speaker Boehner summed it up:

“We are going to pursue strategies that will obligate the Senate to finally join the House in confronting the government’s spending problem,” Boehner said. “The principle is simple: no budget, no pay.”

The Speaker, after two big failures in budget negotiations with the President,also indicated a strong desire to return to what he called “regular order” in budgeting, saying that the traditional Congressional methodology for budget making should be adhered to. The Speaker second guessed himself in a speech given after the collapse of talks with the President. From The Hill:

Boehner now believes that effort was a mistake, and he has vowed to Republicans in the House that he will not negotiate one-on-one with Obama going forward. He is instead recommitting to a “regular order” process, whereby the House and Senate pass legislation independently that can then be reconciled with amendments or with conference committees.

(Emphasis added.)

The relentless Republican attacks on the Senate Democrats for their failure to produce a budget finally worked, with new Senate Budget Committee chair Sen. Patty Murray not only producing a budget, but passing it in the Senate. Now “regular order”, as noted above, would have both branches appoint conference committee members to work out the differences between their budgets. Standard operating procedure, and “regular order” for sure. But it seems that Republicans are now loathe to appoint conference committee members, with the Speaker as well as (some)Senate Republicans refusing to participate in “regular order.” It seems that Republicans now realize that “regular order” will allow some politically uncomfortable minority motions to hit the House floor (motions to instruct), and they just do not want to allow that to happen. So much for regular order. The Speaker is trying to explain how his new position actually meshes with his old position (he was for regular order before he was against it). The Speaker’s explanation? From TPM:

“I think you also know that under rules, if you appoint conferees and after 20 legislative days there’s no agreement, the minority has the right to offer motions to instruct, which become politically motivated bombs that show up on the House floor,” Boehner said. “I just want to be frank with you: we’re following what I would describe as regular order. These informal conversations are under way. That’s the way it should work.”

That explanation made as much sense as the one Republicans gave when they tried to explain why the Paul Ryan budget did not balance the federal budget for 40 years, when the stated purpose of his budgetary work was to fight the evil of debt and deficits. But I digress. In the Senate it has become hand to hand combat between Republicans, with some of the more traditional Republicans looking to utilize “regular order” and go to conference, while the newer members, more in line with Tea Party values, resist. Yes those that Senator McCain dubbed “whacko birds” have dug in pretty hard. Marco Rubio made it clear that “regular order” is not for him.

“I have tremendous respect for this institution,” Mr. Rubio said in an interview on Friday. “But I’m not all that interested in the way things have always been done around here.”

McCain’s favorite “whacko bird” Sen.Ted Cruz, took aim at Republicans.

“Here is the dirty little secret about some of those on the right side of the aisle,” Mr. Cruz said of his fellow Republicans. “There are some who would very much like to cast a symbolic vote against raising the debt ceiling and nonetheless allow our friends on the left side of the aisle to raise the debt ceiling. That, to some Republicans, is the ideal outcome.”

I would have to say that Senator Cruz is probably right about that issue. Some Republicans would prefer that the United States not default, but do not want to take any responsibility for making that vote. To Cruz those folks are just squishes. He is willing to give us the full monty of no compromise, followed by default. Senator McCain has taken the position that “regular order” should hold.

Mr. McCain called the demands of his Republican colleagues “absolutely out of line and unprecedented.” The Senate passed the budget before dawn on March 23 after a grueling all-night session, he noted, saying it was time to try to reach a final deal with the House in a negotiating conference.

“Will this deliberative body, whether it is the greatest in the world or the worst in the world, go ahead and decide on this issue, so we can at least tell the American people we are going to do what we haven’t done for four years and what every family in America sooner or later has to do — and that is to have a budget?” he asked. Although few of Mr. McCain’s colleagues took to the floor to join him, many have expressed similar views.

My only question is why “no budget, no pay” does not apply here? Since the Republicans brought it up I don’t see why the Democrats are not yelling for enforcement. More public relations I know, but the Republicans had a degree of success with their effort. Or maybe the Democrats are content to let the Republicans argue this issue out themselves. Whatever the outcome it certainly does not bode well for budget agreement, if we ever do get to conference.

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