Sessions: No Appropriations Without A Budget
“One of these [budgetary] enforcement mechanisms is a prohibition against the consideration of appropriations bills in the absence of a budget… I have a duty as the Ranking Member of the Budget Committee… to oppose cloture on this [appropriations bill] and to raise the 303(c) point of order should cloture be invoked… I am also bringing forward legislation that will raise the 303(c) point of order threshold to 60 votes… Until the majority allows this chamber to adopt a badly-needed budget, I am going to continue raising points of order on appropriations bills.
“Senate Democrats will not produce a budget—and the White House will not put together an honest plan with real spending cuts. Just more gimmicks, tricks, and games. It’s easy to claim deficit reduction as a priority—but if they were actually to put a plan on paper it would become all too clear that their desire is for larger taxes and only meager cuts… the White House and Senate Democrats may think their strategy is clever, I don’t think the American people are amused.”
WASHINGTON—U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Ranking Member of the Senate Budget Committee, announced today on the Senate floor that he would oppose cloture and raise a point of order against an upcoming appropriation bill, and raise points of order against appropriations bills in the future, because Senate Democrats have ignored the law requiring that a budget be in place before money is appropriated. Sessions also announced a legislative proposal increasing the number of votes needed to waive the legal requirement.
Sessions’ remarks, as prepared, follow:
“One of the few things mandated for Congress to do every year is pass a budget. According to the Congressional Budget Act, signed into law in 1974, the Senate Budget Committee must produce a budget resolution by April 1st and adopt a conference agreement on that budget by April 15th. Furthermore, a budget must include total levels of spending, revenue, and deficits for no less than five years.
Once a budget is in place, Congress is prohibited from passing legislation that exceeds the levels established in that budget. In essence, a budget is both a concrete plan for the future and an enforcement mechanism to help ensure honest accounting.
One of these enforcement mechanisms is a prohibition against the consideration of appropriations bills in the absence of a budget. This is the essence of good government: you should not spend taxpayer dollars without a plan to efficiently allocate those dollars in a way that maximizes effectiveness and minimizes waste.
This point of order is contained in section 303(c) of the Congressional Budget Act. Once that point of order is raised, the legislation in question cannot move forward unless a majority of Senators vote to waive the requirement that taxpayer money should not be appropriated without a budget plan.
This is what the law dictates. This is our responsibility as legislators. And this is the duty that the Democrat-led Senate has refused to fulfill for the last 805 days. Senate Democrats have failed to adopt a budget in more than two years and, this year, have refused to even produce a budget for public review.
As soon as today, we are scheduled to vote on a motion to proceed to a military construction appropriations bill. Regardless of my feelings about this legislation, or my high admiration for those who worked on it, I have a duty as the Ranking Member of the Budget Committee, during this time of extreme fiscal danger, to oppose cloture on this measure and to raise the 303(c) point of order should cloture be invoked.
My objection does not mean I do not support this bill. And, to any who would suggest otherwise, let me state that this action is, at its core, a defense of our troops. No one understands duty better than those who wear the uniform, and it is our duty to write a budget that sets priorities and ensures the needs of our troops are met. The military is a priority of the highest order. To protect that priority we must have a budget—especially in these challenging economic times. The Senate has failed those in uniform if it chooses political expedience over drafting a budget that includes a military spending plan.
How can we protect the military from unwise cuts if spending plans aren’t made public? The only area of government significantly cut in the unseen Democrat budget appears to be the Pentagon. If this is the plan from the Democrat majority, it should be made public and it should be debated.
The authors of the Congressional Budget Act likely did not contemplate a future in which the governing party believes budgets are no longer necessary, as seems to be the case today. That is why I am also bringing forward legislation that will raise the 303(c) point of order threshold to 60 votes. No appropriations without a budget unless sixty senators choose to waive the legal requirement.
The danger we face from continuing to operate this government without a clear, concrete budget is simply too great.
Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, warned that our nation’s debt is the gravest of all national security threats we face. It is so. We owe it to the extraordinary men and women who serve this country to defend at home the way of life they have defended abroad. That means the Senate must confront that debt that threatens us with disaster.
Already, as economists Rogoff and Reinhart demonstrated, we are losing at least a million jobs a year as a result our high debt. In just a little over two months, our nation’s gross debt will be as large as our entire economy, and growing larger. This year we will take in $2.2 trillion, but we will spend $3.7 trillion. By the end of the first three years of the Obama administration, we will have accumulated $5 trillion in new gross debt. Over the next ten years, we are projected to spend $46 trillion, adding another $13 trillion in gross debt.
No nation can sustain this level of debt, nor can any nation ever raise enough taxes to cover this level of spending. The course we are on is not merely unsustainable, it is unimaginable. We’ve spent and borrowed all we can.
There is only one sound answer: control spending and grow the economy. For America to regain prosperity, Washington must regain discipline. Hiking taxes to bail out Washington only subsidizes more reckless behavior.
Since the Democrat-led Senate last passed a budget we’ve spent $7.3 trillion dollars and increased the debt by $3.2 trillion. This fiscal abandon has brought us the brink of the debt ceiling. And yet still, Senate Democrats will not produce a budget—and the White House will not put together an honest plan with real spending cuts. Just more gimmicks, tricks, and games.
Majority Leader Reid actually declared it would be ‘foolish’ to have a budget. It’s easy to claim deficit reduction as a priority—but if they were actually to put a plan on paper it would become all too clear that their desire is for larger taxes and only meager cuts. Numbers don’t lie. Their rhetoric creates the appearance of savings that simply don’t exist.
But while the White House and Senate Democrats may think their strategy is clever, I don’t think the American people are amused.
Until the majority allows this chamber to adopt a badly-needed budget, I am going to continue raising points of order on appropriations bills. Now more than ever we should fulfill our legal duties—not shirk them.
We were not elected to preside over the financial decline of America. We were not elected to shut down the committees, to shut down debate, to cede our constitutional responsibility to secret meetings and closed-door negotiations.
The debt limit is not only about fulfilling our obligations to creditors. It is about fulfilling our obligation to the good people we serve. We owe them a Senate that works openly and tirelessly on their behalf. We owe them honest, competent, limited government. We owe them a Senate that is worthy of their faith and trust.”