By Walter Alarkon - 05/27/10 10:00 AM EDT
Democrats could see their words come back to haunt them if the House is unable to move a budget resolution this year.
Many Democrats relished in criticizing Republicans for failing to pass a final budget resolution in 2006, when the GOP controlled both chambers.
Budget Committee Chairman John Spratt (D-S.C.) blasted Republicans that year, telling them, “If you can’t budget, you can’t govern.”
Now Hoyer, Spratt and other Democrats face election-year opposition in their own party to moving a budget resolution that would forecast wide deficits.
Republicans see an opportunity to score points on Democratic hypocrisy, and on the majority’s inability to govern.
“Don’t take our word for it, take the words of senior Democrats who said, ‘If you can’t govern, you can’t lead,’” said Ken Spain, communications director for the National Republican Congressional Committee. “At a time when Americans are struggling and taxpayers are buried under mountains of debt as a result of Democrats’ big spending policies, Washington liberals are forgoing one of their most fundamental duties.”
Republicans think they have a strong card to play.
Though Republicans were in control of the House the four times Congress wasn’t able to get a resolution through both chambers — 1998, 2002, 2004 and 2006 — the House passed at least its version of a budget resolution every year since the current budget rules were put in place in 1974.
They also think political independents, whom polls suggest have soured on the Obama presidency, will turn to the GOP over the deficit.
Independents flocked to Obama in 2008, at least partly out of concern for spending under the George W. Bush administration.
A Gallup poll last month found that the deficit — expected by the Congressional Budget Office to hit $1.5 trillion this year and average nearly $1 trillion annually for the next decade under Obama administration policies — was the second most important issue for independents in the upcoming election. Independents’ top issue was the economy in general.
“Why can’t we start cutting spending now? And why don’t we see a Democrat budget here on the floor?” House GOP Leader John Boehner (Ohio) said Tuesday on the House floor.
“President Obama and the Speaker continue to put off this important work, missing a critical opportunity to stop out of control spending that economists say is hurting our economy and slowing the creation of new jobs in America.”
Democrats are still holding out hope that they can get a budget through. House leaders have held talks with fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrats about their proposal to cut non-security discretionary spending by 2 percent for each of the next three years.
“We’re working on a resolution or some variation thereof, so we haven’t thrown in the towel yet,” Spratt told The Hill this week.
Spratt as recently as February repeated his saying that “If you can’t budget, you can’t govern” during an interview with PBS’s Charlie Rose.
He said it’s something he tells the Democratic Caucus during talks on the budget resolution.
Spratt dismissed Republicans’ suggestions that he was going back on his old adage, and noted that key elements of a budget resolution are already in place or will be installed through other measures.
Spratt said Democrats last year enacted a pay-as-you-go measure that prohibits any new entitlement spending and tax cuts whose costs aren’t offset and thus add to the deficit. Democratic leaders have also considered a resolution that would set the discretionary spending limits for next year, an approach that has been used in past Congresses.
Hoyer’s office said that Democrats are still working on a budget resolution that would cut spending and produce a path to long-term fiscal responsibility.
“Republicans bringing up quotes that point out their failure to cut spending and reduce the deficit shows they have no leg to stand on,” said Hoyer spokeswoman Katie Grant.
Unlike Republicans, who increased deficits when they were in Congress, Democrats have enacted the pay-go law, created the fiscal commission and passed measures aimed at waste, fraud and abuse — all of which were opposed by House GOP members — Grant added.
Democrats in the Senate plan to move forward with their budget plan after the Memorial Day recess.
The proposal drafted by Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) and reported out of the Senate Budget Committee would reduce the deficit by 2015 to $545 billion, or a level equivalent to 3 percent of gross domestic product. This year’s deficit is expected to be approximately 10 percent of GDP. The White House and independent economists have said that 3 percent is the maximum sustainable debt-to-GDP level.