Senate Dems to skip 2015 budget

Senate Democrats will not write a budget for the next fiscal year.

One year after writing and passing the first Senate Democratic budget resolution in four years, Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said her conference will not make an effort in the 2014 midterm election year.

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In a statement, Murray said there was no reason to do a fiscal 2015 budget after the two-year deal struck in December with House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).

That deal set budget ceilings for the 2014 and 2015 fiscal years. The 2015 fiscal year begins on Oct. 1.

“Fiscal Year 2015 is settled, the Appropriations Committees are already working with their bipartisan spending levels, and now we should work together to build on our two-year bipartisan budget, not create more uncertainty for families and businesses by immediately relitigating it,” Murray said. 

“I went into my negotiations with Chairman Ryan hoping we could give the American people some much needed certainty after years of lurching to crisis to crisis, and I was very glad that our two-year budget deal accomplished that,” she added.

House Republicans are planning to do a budget, however. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Thursday he “expects” it to be done.

That will set up a contrast with the Senate, where Republicans for years criticized Democrats for not doing a budget.

The decision by Murray was expected given the budget deal and the politically delicate task of writing and passing a budget.

Democrats are trying to hold on to their Senate majority in a difficult year, and the decision to abandon the budget means Democrats in difficult races will avoid some tough votes. 

Republicans on Friday sought to criticize Democrats for avoiding responsibility in deciding against a new budget.

“Senate Democrats are required by law to produce a budget,” Budget Committee ranking member Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) said Friday. “Our nation is in enormous financial distress, and workers and families are suffering. Senate Democrats have produced only one budget in the last five years. This Senate and, more importantly, the American public, deserve to see a detailed ten-year financial plan to contain our dangerously rising debt and revitalize our dismal economy.”

A senior Democratic aide said the GOP is not interested in debating the long-term solution to budget deficits and just wants to play politics. 

“Republicans are sorely lacking in credibility when it comes to our budget process. Last year, after spending years calling on the Senate to pass a budget, Republicans spent seven months blocking a budget conference and finally pushed the country into a completely unnecessary government shutdown before begrudgingly agreeing to a two-year budget,” the aide said.

The aide added that Republicans “just want to reopen the FY15 budget so they can hijack the process to play politics and use a vote-a-rama for partisan and campaign-related show-votes.”

Ryan will face some challenges in writing his resolution, which he plans to have lead to a balanced budget within 10 years.  

Sixty-two House Republicans voted against the two-year budget deal because they thought it spent too much. Ryan may have to put a lower spending amount for 2015 in the budget to win over these conservatives, but doing so could anger GOP appropriators who are eager to get going on their spending process using the number already in law.

Murray's budget last year squeaked out of the Senate on a 50 to 49 vote held at 5 am, with vulnerable Sens. Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and former Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) voting against it, and vulnerable Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) voting in support.

The budget contained $975 billion in new tax increases but never led to a balance. The floor process put the Senate on record supporting the Keystone XL oil pipeline and a repeal of the ObamaCare medical device tax.