Q: What is required of Congress in making a budget plan?
A: The Congressional Budget Act of 1974 says Congress should annually adopt a budget plan for the upcoming fiscal year and at least the following four fiscal years. The annual budget is to be adopted as a concurrent resolution, so it is not presented to the President for his signature and doesn't become law. Rather, when adopted by Congress, the budget resolution is an agreement between the House and Senate on a congressional budget plan. It provides the budget framework for subsequent legislative action during each congressional session.
Q: Is there an annual deadline?
A: The congressional budget timetable sets April 15 as a target date for completing action on the annual budget resolution. Before 1986, the date was May 15. According to the Congressional Research Service, budget resolutions have been adopted, on average, almost 37 days after the target date.
Q: How is it that the Senate hasn't passed a budget for more than three years?
A: The Senate last adopted a budget resolution on April 29, 2009. Since then, the majority leadership of the Senate has not produced even a proposal for consideration. The only conclusion a person can draw is that the Democratic leadership either doesn't have a plan or doesn't want its fingerprints on one.
Q: The President proposed a budget; why not just use that?
A: The President's budget proposal has been unanimously rejected. In April, the House of Representatives voted 414 to 0 against President Obama's budget. In May, the Senate voted 99 to 0 against the President's budget. President Obama's proposal would do little to change the nation's dangerously unsustainable debt path. And, rather than reduce spending, President Obama proposed $2 trillion in tax increases to increase government spending above current levels. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said the President's policies would lead to a fifth consecutive year of $1 trillion deficits, 2009 to 2013. In addition, under the President's plan, after 10 years, the national debt would be 76.5 percent of America's gross domestic product. The historical average since World War II is just 43 percent.
Q: What are the repercussions of the Senate's not passing a budget?
A: As President Obama has said, the annual budget is "an economic blueprint for this nation's future." A budget blueprint would lay out priorities for deficit reduction, economic growth or a path to balance. Today, along with having now gone more than three years without a budget, America is in the midst of the fourth consecutive year of trillion-dollar deficits. Yet, there is no one in the Democratic leadership, which controls the U.S. Senate, willing to take charge, even while our nation continues on a path of deficits and debt. Republican senators offered three alternative budgets for consideration this year, yet all were rejected by the Democratic majority. The President has refused to get involved in a serious way to provide moral and political leadership. Instead, a commitment to solutions is needed for today and the future.