Republican leaders on the Senate Budget Committee announced Monday they will be postponing action on the fiscal year 2017 budget this month amid struggles to reach a consensus on a fiscal blueprint.
Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY), Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, said the decision to delay action on the budget does not preclude the Committee from continuing to discuss the budget, as well as improvements to the budget process.
The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 (BBA) allows the Committee to begin work on annual spending bills in absence of a budget resolution. The BBA gives the Chairman of the Committee the authority to enforce the Congressional Budget Act of 1974, which states that a House-passed budget resolution can be placed directly on the Senate calendar after April 1.
“The Senate already has top-line numbers and budget enforcement features available this year so that a regular order appropriations process can move forward while we continue to discuss broader budget challenges,” said Chairman Enzi.
The Committee’s punt spurred top Senate Democratic leaders to move ahead on drafting spending bills without a budget. The senators, led by Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) wrote to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Monday urging him to allow the appropriations process to move forward despite the delayed budget resolution.
“A product of painstaking negotiation and compromise, the BBA established a bipartisan framework for Congress to move forward on annual funding bills based on the principles of full and fairly allocated funding, a rejection of poison pill riders, and parity between the Pentagon’s needs and other needs here at home,” the letter stated.
“As we see it, restoring the regular order promises not only a more open and transparent process, but a chance for senators on both sides of the aisle to participate meaningfully in funding decisions,” the letter continued. “This is a win-win opportunity, and we should seize it together.”
McConnell agreed, stating, “I’m glad that Senate Democrats share my goal of considering appropriations bills in an expeditious fashion through the regular order.” The Senate Republican leader said that earlier this year he requested the Appropriations Committee to accelerate their work in an effort to move forward with individual bills as soon as mid-April.
The delayed budget resolution has stoked fears there will be no budget before the end of the fiscal year. Passing a budget is a top priority for GOP leaders this year, but they have yet to reach a consensus. Conservatives unhappy with the deal reached last December want to see additional spending cuts, not bipartisan compromise, in the wake of the growing national debt.