Hoyer: Midterms, deficit make budget resolution difficult

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) on Tuesday confirmed what Democrats have been hinting at for weeks: A budget resolution in 2010 may not happen. 

Hoyer said it will be hard for Democrats to pass a resolution because of the inherent political pressure of an election year and the large projected deficit.

“We will see if we have the votes to do so,” Hoyer told reporters Tuesday at his weekly press conference. “It’s difficult to pass budgets in election years because they reflect what the [fiscal] status is.”

The Congressional Budget Office expects this year’s deficit to hit $1.5 trillion, a year after it hit a then-record $1.4 trillion. 

Higher-than-expected tax revenues could bring the deficit below the $1.5 trillion estimate by the CBO. The deficit over the first six months of fiscal 2010 was 8 percent smaller than the deficit over the same period in 2009, due largely to lower-than-expected bank bailout costs, the Treasury Department said this week.

It wouldn’t be a surprise if Democrats don’t pass a budget resolution. 

Any resolution would likely show large annual deficits for years to come, meaning fiscally conservative lawmakers, especially Blue Dog Democrats, would have a difficult time voting for one. 

For weeks, Democrats have talked privately about the difficulty in moving a budget resolution this year. 

President Barack Obama’s budget request would lead to deficits that average nearly $1 trillion for the next 10 years, according to the CBO. 

The deficit would go from a level equal to 10 percent of GDP to roughly 4 percent by 2014 as the economy recovers and economic recovery measures abate, but the budget shortfall would begin rising in following years as entitlement costs grow, CBO has said. 

The White House and independent economists have said that the maximum sustainable deficit level is 3 percent of GDP.

Democrats are worried they’ll be blamed by voters this fall for the deficit, but Hoyer on Tuesday laid 90 percent of responsibility on former President George W. Bush’s administration. He said about 10 percent of the deficit was attributable to bank bailouts backed by both the Bush and Obama administrations and the Democrats’ $862 billion stimulus. 

Hoyer also downplayed the significance of not approving a budget resolution. 

While he said he and House Budget Committee Chairman John Spratt (D-S.C.) believe it’s important to pass a budget, Hoyer noted Republican-led Congresses haven’t passed a final budget resolution through both chambers in recent years.

Republicans “wring their hands” when Democrats don’t pass a budget resolution, Hoyer said, but the GOP failed to pass a budget in 1998, 2002, 2004 and 2006. 

GOP members pushed back against Hoyer, noting that a budget resolution has passed the House annually since the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act became law in 1974. 

In some years, however, the House hasn’t been able to reconcile its version with a Senate resolution.

“Given the challenges the American people are facing — nearly double-digit unemployment, tax hike after tax hike and trillion-dollar deficits as far as the eye can see — failing to pass a budget this year would be utterly irresponsible,” said Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio). 

-- This story was updated at 7:39 p.m.