Murray: Senate Democrats Will Not Do a Budget This Year

The already small number of things Congress plans to do this year just got smaller.

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 12: U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) speaks while flanked by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) during a news conference on Capitol Hill, on December 12, 2013 in Washington, DC. Senate Democrats talked about a proposed budget deal and Republicans efforts to block U.S. President Barack Obama's Circuit court nominees
National Journal
Sarah Mimms
Feb. 28, 2014, 10 a.m.

Just a day after Speak­er John Boehner prom­ised that House Re­pub­lic­ans will pro­duce a budget this year, Sen­ate budget writer Patty Mur­ray an­nounced that her com­mit­tee won’t be join­ing them.

“Fisc­al Year 2015 is settled, the Ap­pro­pri­ations Com­mit­tees are already work­ing with their bi­par­tis­an spend­ing levels, and now we should work to­geth­er to build on our two-year bi­par­tis­an budget, not cre­ate more un­cer­tainty for fam­il­ies and busi­nesses by im­me­di­ately rel­it­ig­at­ing it,” Mur­ray said in a state­ment provided to Na­tion­al Journ­al.

Es­sen­tially, the Sen­ate Budget Com­mit­tee chair­wo­man is ar­guing that there is no need to do a budget for fisc­al 2015 be­cause Con­gress already has one. The budget agree­ment that Mur­ray con­cocted with Rep. Paul Ry­an, R-Wis., and passed both cham­bers in Decem­ber, already set the topline spend­ing level for fisc­al 2015 at $1.014 tril­lion. That’s all ap­pro­pri­at­ors need to pass their spend­ing bills for fund­ing the gov­ern­ment through Oc­to­ber of next year.

Mur­ray did say, however, that she will work with the Sen­ate Budget Com­mit­tee to “lay out our long-term vis­ion for cre­at­ing jobs, boost­ing the eco­nomy, and tack­ling our de­fi­cits fairly and re­spons­ibly.” Those pro­pos­als will al­low Demo­crats to lay out their ideal fin­an­cial vis­ion for the coun­try in an elec­tion year that they plan to struc­ture around in­come in­equal­ity, without hav­ing to make any of the tough choices that go in­to a bi­par­tis­an budget agree­ment that ac­tu­ally would stand a chance of passing in both cham­bers.

Those con­cerns are shared by some House Re­pub­lic­ans, who are en­cour­aging Ry­an not to pro­duce a budget either, lest his 2015 pro­pos­als de­tract from their elec­tion-year ar­gu­ments on the Af­ford­able Care Act and job cre­ation.

Sen­ate Demo­crats also warn that the dif­fer­ence in topline fig­ures between the cur­rent fisc­al year and the next is a mere $2 bil­lion (noth­ing in the con­text of a massive fed­er­al spend­ing bill), leav­ing Ry­an little room to make sweep­ing changes to fed­er­al spend­ing. Ry­an would have to break open his agree­ment with Mur­ray in or­der to make a real im­pact, some ar­gue.

“They just want to re­open the FY15 budget so they can hi­jack the pro­cess to play polit­ics and use a vote-a-rama for par­tis­an and cam­paign-re­lated show-votes. If Re­pub­lic­ans truly want to work with Demo­crats to build on the two-year bi­par­tis­an budget, that can hap­pen without re­do­ing a form­al pro­cess for a budget that is already done,” a Sen­ate Demo­crat­ic aide said.

But the House ma­jor­ity is in a slightly dif­fer­ent po­s­i­tion than their col­leagues in the oth­er cham­ber. Sen­ate Demo­crats don’t have a “No Budget, No Pay” prom­ise to con­tend with. Some mem­bers worry that the deal could make House Re­pub­lic­ans look hy­po­crit­ic­al if they don’t pro­duce a sep­ar­ate fisc­al 2015 budget, des­pite the Ry­an-Mur­ray agree­ment.

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