By Bernie Becker and Erik Wasson – 01/24/12 12:33 PM ET
Senate Republicans slammed their Democratic colleagues on Tuesday for not passing a budget in exactly 1,000 days, accusing Democrats of shirking their duty in a period of soaring deficits.
Four senators at a Tuesday news conference said President Obama should be more of a leader on reining in deficits. GOP lawmakers have for months pointed out the time elapsed since the Senate last passed a budget.
“It 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,” said Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), who also called the lack of a Senate budget “a national scandal.”
Johnson also said that he would procedurally tie up the Senate if the chamber hasn’t passed a budget by April 15, a move he also made last June to protest the budget situation.
“The other side really does need to put their plan, their budget, on a piece of paper,” Johnson added. “Not just say that they’re for a grand bargain, not just say they’re for fiscal control.”
Republicans’ latest push on the issue comes the same day that the president is scheduled to head to the Capitol to deliver his State of the Union address.
GOP aides said that it was a coincidence that the president was invited to speak to Congress on the 1,000-day anniversary of the last Senate budget. Obama also delivered his 2011 State of the Union address on the fourth Tuesday in January.
For their part, Senate Democrats on Tuesday pushed back on the GOP claims that the Senate had not cleared a budget plan.
The Senate Budget Committee, chaired by Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), released an analysis asserting that the deal reached in August to raise the debt ceiling was, for all intents and purposes, a budget.
The Budget Control Act (BCA) included caps on discretionary spending and examined entitlement programs and revenue, the analysis said. “Republican rhetoric aside, Congress did pass a budget,” the fact sheet added.
“Either they don’t know what they did or they are misrepresenting what we all did,” Conrad said on the floor.
House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said that Democrats should be embarassed to claim the budget act as their blueprint because it “fell far, far short of solving this country’s fiscal problems.”
“If the BCA is their answer to fiscal sanity and preventing a debt crisis, then heaven help us,” Ryan said.
The office of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) pointed out that Senate Democrats did write a budget resolution but refused to mark it up in committee last year.
Sessions said that the U.S. still faced a dire debt situation, even with the caps included in the debt ceiling deal and the automatic cuts scheduled to go into effect due to the failure of the deficit-reduction supercommittee.
“The limits that we have are not sufficient,” Sessions said. “They were the best that could be accomplished under the circumstances, with the threat of a government shutdown.”
In all, the debt-ceiling deal will lead to north of $2 trillion in spending cuts, while bipartisan commissions have said that the U.S. needs more like $4 trillion in fiscal restraint over a decade.
“Is it not the responsibility of the president, the chief executive office, to tell the American people that the $2 trillion is not enough?” Sessions said, hours before Obama’s State of the Union address.
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