Monday, February 13, 2012

The Return of Cranky Blogging

The GOP talking point that Democrats are irresponsible because the Senate hasn't passed a budget resolution has got to be one of the more annoying things around. So I'm cranky because Glenn Kessler over at the WaPo decided to Fact Check White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew's assertion on the Sunday shows that the reason Senate Democrats hadn't passed a budget was because of GOP filibusters.

Kessler is correct on the narrow fact here. Lew claimed that it took 60 votes in the Senate to pass a budget resolution, and that's not correct: a budget resolution cannot be filibustered. However...first of all, it would do no one any good at all for the Senate to pass a budget resolution without Republican support, since a partisan Democratic budget has no chance at all in the Republican House. One could just as easily argue that it's more irresponsible of the House to have passed a (partisan) budget as it is for the Senate to have declined to do so. Meanwhile, as Kessler seems to understand, the real truth is that while the Senate didn't pass a (nonbinding) budget resolution last year, they did in fact pass something much more concrete, the Budget Control Act that eneded the debt limit fight. Indeed, Kessler says:
He could have tried to argue, as some Democrats do, that the debt-ceiling deal last year in effect was a budget resolution.
But Lew did so argue! In the paragraph before the bit Kessler is complaining about:
What Senator Reid is talking about is a fairly narrow point.  In order for the Senate to do its annual work on appropriation bills, they need to pass a certain piece of legislation which sets a limit.  They did that last year.
With Candy Crowley's question explaining the context, which is all about the claim that a budget resolution is superfluous this year.

The rules of the game are pretty clear. The president has to submit a budget. The out-party is entitled to pick and choose from it and to claim that everyone in the president's party supports every provision of the budget; they're also entitled, if they can force it under House and Senate rules, to bring that budget up for a vote in order to either embarrass the president when his own party votes it down or to further hold it against Members from the president's party if they vote for it. One could argue that the out-party has the responsibility of stating what they're for; House Republicans certainly fulfilled that last year, and say they're planning to again this year. But all of this is just spin and rhetoric; any real budgeting requires a deal that can pass both Houses of Congress and win the support of the president (not required for a budget resolution, but absolutely required to actually enact anything). Note that had Lew said this in 2009, when Democrats had control of the House, I would have been on Kessler's side. But that's not the situation now.

Reporters in the neutral press should keep their eyes on real budgeting -- and, substantively, what the parties claim to be for. The procedural claims and counterclaims involved are just junk, and Candy Crowley should have ignored it -- and Kessler should have found something a lot more worthwhile to spend his fact check space on. In other words, what Lew said was technically wrong but irrelevant.

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