Johnson threatens Senate filibuster over lack of budget

“If we haven’t passed a budget by April 15 this year, you can rest assured that on April 16 … I’ll start withholding my consent to draw attention to the issue that we have not passed a budget, that we are not seriously addressing the financial situation of this country,” Johnson said at the Capitol. “It’s the minimum that the American people can expect or should expect.

“This is a national scandal,” Johnson continued. “[I]t is imperative that we get our federal budget under control. And the first step, the minimum thing that Congress should do, is follow the law that it passed to put discipline on itself and pass a budget.”

Johnson was referring to the Congressional Budget Act of 1974, which requires the House and Senate each to pass budget resolutions with spending limits and revenue targets by April 15 for the next fiscal year. 

Republicans in both chambers on Tuesday noted in advance of President Obama’s State of the Union address that it was by coincidence the 1,000-day anniversary of the last time Congress passed a budget by regular order.  

Ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) suggested his Democratic counterpart, Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), did not want to produce a concrete budget because it would reveal plans for out-of-control spending. 

Conrad, however, hit back from the Senate floor, arguing that the summer’s Budget Control Act included a budget for the next two years and was in some respects more meaningful than a budget because it carries the force of law.

Johnson dismissed that argument, claiming the Congressional Budget Act still needed to be satisfied with a real budget, passed by regular Senate order. 

“It is a ridiculous notion to say that a hurried backroom deal replaces the budgeting process and committee markup in the Senate,” Johnson said. “Budgets aren’t just a single maximum number, but begin the process for Congress to identify the nation’s priorities and what resources will be spent to address them.”

Johnson has leveled several filibuster threats since entering the Senate last January, making good on one in June when he objected to what he characterized then as Democrats’ negligence on budgetary matters.

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