May 30, 2011

May 30, 2011 | Commentary on Budget and Spending

Obama Budget: Zero% Approval in the Senate

The Senate unanimously rejected President Barack Obama’s budget for fiscal year 2012 last week. All but five Republicans stood behind the budget plan of Rep. Paul Ryan (R.-Wis.). The Senate is moving in the right direction—against free-spending, big-government policies and toward comprehensive entitlement reform.

Late last week, the Senate structured four votes on motions to proceed to the budget plans of President Obama, Rep. Ryan, Senators Pat Toomey (R.-Pa.) and Rand Paul (R.-Ky.) The vote on President Obama’s budget was a humiliating 0-97. The President lacks any support for his $3.7 trillion plan for next year, which would create $8.7 trillion in new spending, $1.6 trillion in new taxes and add $13 trillion in new debt over the next 10 years.

The left has attacked the Ryan budget, yet it received 40 more votes than the President’s–40-57, with Senators Scott Brown (R.-Mass.), Susan Collins (R.-Maine), Olympia Snowe (R.-Maine), Lisa Murkowski (R.-Alaska) and Rand Paul voting in opposition to the Ryan plan. Sen. Paul seemed to be the only Republican to vote against the plan because he wants a budget that balances sooner. Most Republicans went on the record to support the Ryan budget, with two senators, Pat Roberts (R.-Kan.) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R.-Tex.) missing the vote.

Sen. Toomey’s plan, which balances the budget in 10 years, failed 42-55. Sen. Paul’s plan, which balances it in five years, failed 7-90. No Democrat plan received even one vote and the Democrat-controlled Senate continues a tradition of not producing a budget for the fiscal year.

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D.-N.D.) seems incapable of gathering enough Democrats to pass any budget plan for the year. Even though current spending levels on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security are bankrupting the nation, the left apparently does not want to subject those programs to any reforms that would make them more efficient and less wasteful.

Obama Causing High Gas Prices

Last week, Rep. Darrell Issa (R.-Calif.), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, chaired a hearing on high gas prices. Issa accused the Obama Administration of implementing energy policies that drive up gas prices in an effort to force high-priced alternative energy sources on Americans.

Rep. Issa told Greta Van Susteren on Fox News before the hearing that “very clearly we are living up to [Secretary of Energy] Stephen Chu and President Obama’s predictions and desire to get us to $8 gasoline.” The Obama Administration has done virtually nothing to expand drilling in an effort to reduce gas prices on the average American consumer.

Pickens’ Bill Takes Heat

T. Boone Pickens made his fortune in the oil fields and is now trying to drive federal subsidies toward natural-gas vehicles. Pickens’ proposal, the bipartisan New Alternative Transportation to Give Americans Solutions (NATGAS) Act, would subsidize the production, use and purchase of natural-gas vehicles. This idea, which promotes crony capitalism, should be rejected by conservatives.

Pickens and associations such as Natural Gas Vehicles for America, claim the subsidies will give the industry a boost. By boost, of course, they mean market-distorting handouts that simply transfer a portion of the actual costs of using and producing natural-gas vehicles to taxpayers.

Heritage Action for America and 17 other conservative groups sent a letter to Congress last week urging members to oppose the legislation. Conservatives have strong allies inside Congress. Rep. Mike Pompeo (R.-Kan.), a former natural-gas man, has been a leading opponent of the proposal.

Pickens’ recently took to editorial pages to question Rep. Pompeo’s patriotism. But of course, the NATGAS Act is the sort of big-government, big-industry relationship that the American people rejected in November. Let’s hope enough members of Congress have learned that lesson.

Senate Majority Leader Reid Strong-Arms Senate

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D.-Nev.) promised not to engage in the tactic of “Filling the Amendment Tree” to block amendments by members as part of the agreement to preserve the filibuster. The tactic is a means for the majority leader to block controversial amendments to bills and it flies in the face of the Senate tradition of free and open debate. Sen. Rand Paul (R.-Ky.) intended to offer a pro-gun amendment to the Patriot Act last week and Sen. Reid blocked consideration of the measure.

Reid should preserve the traditions of the filibuster and allow all senators to offer amendments to bills. Our Founders would surely object to Reid’s strong-arm tactics.

Brian Darling is senior fellow for Government Studies at The Heritage Foundation.

About the Author

Brian Darling Senior Fellow for Government Studies
Government Studies

First appeared in Human Events