By Josiah Ryan
Freshman Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) threatened once again this week to bring the Senate to a grinding halt if Democrats fails to produce a budget that can clear the upper chamber by April 15.
“If we haven’t passed a budget by April 15th this year, you can rest assured that on April 16th… I’ll start withholding my consent to draw attention to the issue that we have not passed a budget, that we are not seriously addressing the financial situation of this country,” said Johnson speaking at the Capitol. “It’s the minimum that the American people can expect or should expect.
“This is a national scandal,” continued Johnson. “[I]t 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 and pass a budget.”
Johnson was referring to the Congressional Budget Act of 1974, which requires the House and Senate to each pass budget resolutions with spending limits and revenue targets by April 15 for the next fiscal year.
Republicans in both chambers on Tuesday noted in advance of President Obama’s State of the Union address that it was by coincidence the 1,000-day anniversary of the last time Congress passed a budget by regular order.
Ranking member of the Senate Committee on the Budget Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) suggested his Democratic counterpart Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) did not want to produce a concrete budget because it would reveal plans for out-of-control spending.
Conrad, however, hit back from the Senate floor arguing that the summer’s Budget Control Act included a budget for the next two years and in was in some respects more meaningful than a budget since it carries the force of law.
Johnson, however, dismissed that argument, claiming the Congressional Budget Act still needed to be satisfied with a real budget, passed by regular Senate order.
“It is a ridiculous notion to say that a hurried backroom deal replaces the budgeting process and committee markup in the Senate,” Johnson said. “Budgets aren’t just a single maximum number, but begin the process for Congress to identify the nation’s priorities and what resources will be spent to address them.”
Johnson has leveled several filibuster threats since entering the Senate last January, making good on at least one in June when he also objected to what he characterized as Democrats’ negligence on budgetary matters.