The term ‘fiscal responsibility’ is en vogue in Washington these days. Lawmakers have been quick to claim they will tackle the federal government’s impending financial crisis, a claim showcased by the President’s commission to reduce the federal deficit. But Congress’ recent behavior proves they are no more serious about reining in spending than they were before, exposing the deficit commission for the fig leaf that it really is.
Yesterday, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) announced that, for the first time since 1974, the House will not pass a budget resolution this year. Since the Budget Act of 1974, Congress has been unable to conference a budget resolution only four times: in 1998, 2002, 2004, and 2006. But in every one of these years, the House fulfilled its obligation to American taxpayers to create a budget. This year, however, this will not be the case.
Without a House budget, no final and binding budget can be enacted. As the House Rules Committee website explains, “The budget resolution provides Congress with the opportunity to lay out its spending, revenue, borrowing and economic goals and serves as the vehicle for imposing internal budget discipline through established enforcement mechanisms.” No budget means no caps on discretionary spending, and makes it severely unlikely that the Bush tax cuts will be extended, raising taxes on low- and middle-income families in the midst of a recession.
Most importantly, though, the failure to pass a budget this year makes lawmakers’ priorities crystal clear: they’ve simply been too busy increasing spending to actually think about controlling it. 63 percent of Americans believe Obamacare will add to the federal deficit. At the beginning of this year, Congress increased the debt ceiling to $14.3 trillion to accommodate more spending. And the budget proposed by President Obama promises to create record deficits in years to come.
Members of Congress may point to the President’s deficit commission as an excuse for this negligent behavior, but this is a cop out. As Heritage’s budget expert Brian Riedl writes, “Congress is under deadline to finance the FY 2011 spending bills before September 30—well before the commission is even scheduled to release its report. Furthermore, the commission itself is focused on longer-term budget issues, such as reducing the deficit by 2015. Finally, there is no guarantee that the deficit commission will even come up with a budget plan that can achieve the required support of 14 of its 18 commission members as well as sufficient congressional support.”
Clearly, Congress is unwilling to be held accountable for its reckless behavior or to take the tough action necessary to reverse it. Instead, lawmakers will continue to talk the talk of fiscal responsibility but walk—no run— at a breakneck pace towards larger deficits. Greece, here we come.