Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) announced last week that the committee would not consider the FY 2012 budget resolution until the bipartisan negotiations led by Vice President Joe Biden are complete. Conrad said “The results of those negotiations may need to be included in a budget resolution that would be offered in the weeks ahead.”
The budget resolution is legally required to be completed by April 15, though the committee’s work has been delayed this year as Conrad has worked to develop a consensus among Democrats on the role that spending and revenues should play in reducing the deficit.
The committee’s ranking member, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Al.), described Conrad’s announcement as an “excuse for delay” and accused Democrats of “trying to avoid having to present a budget to the American people.” In a letter released earlier this week, Republican senators urged Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada to work with them “to produce a FY 2012 budget resolution that makes significant cuts to federal spending and puts our nation on a fiscally responsible path to eliminating our debt altogether.”
Because the budget resolution includes the allocation to the Appropriations Committee, Conrad’s announcement will likely delay Senate consideration of appropriations bills, increasing the chances of a year-end omnibus bill or another continuing resolution.
The delay is discouraging, though Conrad’s statement that “we will have a budget" is a positive development. Congress should avoid a repeat of the 2011 process in which no budget resolution was passed and appropriations bills were not completed until the second half of the fiscal year.
This week the Senate is expected to vote on the budgets proposed by House Republicans and President Obama.