House Budget Committee Democrats on Monday blasted panel Chairman Tom Price (R-Ga.) for refusing to invite top officials to Capitol Hill to discuss President Obama’s final budget.
Led by ranking member Chris Van Hollen (Md.), the panel’s 14 Democrats told Price that they were “appalled at your decision refusing to hold a hearing” on the president's fiscal year 2017 budget.
“This choice is more than just a rejection of the House Budget Committee’s longstanding, bipartisan tradition — it is disrespectful to the committee members, the public and the president,” they wrote in a letter to Price.
“We urge you to rethink your choice, and to ensure that the committee lives up to its responsibilities to our members, this Congress and the American people."
Price and Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike EnziMichael (Mike) Bradley EnziCheney on same-sex marriage opposition: 'I was wrong' What Republicans should demand in exchange for raising the debt ceiling Senate votes to end debate on T infrastructure bill MORE (R-Wyo.) made an unprecedented move on Thursday announcing that their panels won't hold hearings with Shaun DonovanShaun L. S. DonovanYang: 'Defund the police is the wrong approach for New York City' New York mayoral candidates go viral for vastly underestimating housing costs Five things to watch in the New York City mayoral race MORE, the White House's budget director, to review the president's fiscal 2017 budget.
On Tuesday, the president will send his budget blueprint to Capitol Hill. The proposal is already taking heat from congressional Republicans for Obama's plan to add a $10 fee to barrels of oil for infrastructure spending.
In the Republican-controlled Congress, the president's plan would be expected to land with a thud on Capitol Hill but those blueprints have never failed to to get a hearing.
“Every year since 1975, the Budget Committee has held a hearing on the president’s budget with a high-level witness representing OMB,” the panel Democrats wrote.
The Democrats argued that the hearing by the Budget committees provides the only chance for lawmakers to fully weigh the budgetary effects of the yearly proposal.
"You deem the president’s budget unworthy of review — sight unseen — because past administration budgets have rejected the Tea Party agenda," the Democrats wrote.
"Indeed, the president’s budgets embody starkly different priorities than recent Republican budgets that disinvest in America, privatize Medicare, hurt the middle class, slash social safety net programs like Medicaid, threaten retirement security, protect special interest tax loopholes for the ultra-wealthy, and use gimmicky accounting tricks to falsely claim balance," they said.
Democrats were quick to remind Price that at the start of the 114th Congress the majority of the committee approved an oversight plan that states its intention to hold hearings with both the OMB director and the Treasury secretary on the president’s fiscal year 2017 budget.
Treasury Secretary Jack LewJacob (Jack) Joseph LewThe Hill's Morning Report - Biden argues for legislative patience, urgent action amid crisis On The Money: Senate confirms Yellen as first female Treasury secretary | Biden says he's open to tighter income limits for stimulus checks | Administration will look to expedite getting Tubman on bill Sorry Mr. Jackson, Tubman on the is real MORE will testify before the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means committees this week on the budget.
Price argued last week that "rather than spend time on a proposal that, if anything like this administration’s previous budgets, will double down on the same failed policies that have led to the worst economic recovery in modern times, Congress should continue our work on building a budget that balances and that will foster a healthy economy."
Enzi echoed that sentiment.
"Instead of hearing from an administration unconcerned with our $19 trillion in debt, we should focus on how to reform America’s broken budget process and restore the trust of hardworking taxpayers," Enzi said in a joint statement with Price last week on their decision.
Republicans in Congress are expected to release their own budget proposals within the next several weeks.
Stan Collender, a budget expert, said in Forbes on Sunday that “you shouldn’t call the Obama 2017 budget DOA because that label understates how lifeless it will really be.”
He, in fact, deemed the budget JD — "just dead.”
Collender argued that the budget will probably be overshadowed by the New Hampshire primaries and fade into the policy-making background in favor of the hotly contested presidential race.
"The fiscal 2017 budget will be released the day of the New Hampshire primary and, given the craziness of this year’s election, that will severely limit media interest in and coverage of what Obama proposes," he said.
On Friday, the White House and congressional Democratic leaders also heavily criticized Republicans for the move.
Josh Earnest, the White House spokesman, said "I guess the future is pretty dim if you have Republicans in Congress unwilling to even talk about the budget with the White House."
Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) said that "Republicans’ insulting decision" to nix their budget hearings "belies the corrosive radicalism that has gripped congressional Republicans."
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) called the move "outrageous," and said it called into doubt the Republicans' "seriousness about fulfilling their promise to complete a budget process."
"Never before in modern congressional history have we seen the majority declare that it would refuse to extend to the president’s top budget representative the courtesy of a hearing," Hoyer said.