White House Chief Of Staff Miscounts Senate Budget Votes
White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew is coming under fire for incorrectly stating how many senate votes are needed to pass the proposed federal budget. And while Lew’s emphasis on the partisan gridlock plaguing Congress may be true, his office has been unable to explain the repeated mistake.
While appearing on CNN’s State of the Union, Lew was asked to explain Senate Democrats’ failure to pass a budget resolution in 2011. He gave this response:
You can’t pass a budget in the Senate of the United States without 60 votes and you can’t get 60 votes without bipartisan support.
The Washington Post‘s Fact Checker blog tore into this quote, especially after finding several others like it. Thanks to a process called “reconciliation,” budget resolutions are not subject to filibuster. They don’t need sixty votes, they don’t even need fifty votes- they just need a simple majority among the votes taken. (In 2009, the budget passed with 48 votes.)
Lew, a two-time White House budget director surely knows the right answer. It seems like he was trying to shift around some of the blame. And budget resolutions aren’t a strictly Democratic problem: Republican-controlled Congresses failed to pass them in 1999, 2005, and 2007.
But unfortunately, Lew may have had a point that passing a budget resolution doesn’t necessarily mean “getting anything done.”
It should be simple, right? Pass a budget, and then you know how your money is going to be spent. But the Post points out that “term ‘budget’ is used rather loosely in Washington.”
Apparently, the reality is a bit more complicated. The White House can present a budget proposal that is essentially just a wish list. Then Congress proposes a budget… that also does not have the force of law. Finally, all of the power falls to Appropriations Committees that actually decide how the money is spent.
Except they only control 38% of federal spending. The rest is already tied up.
What do you think?