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January 23, 2013

The Filibuster Has Eliminated the Point of a Senate Budget

Posted in: Broken Government

Will Harry Reid end the filibuster?

Republicans have managed to whip themselves into a frenzy about the failure of Senate Democrats to pass a “budget” in over four years. What seems to be lost in this discussion, though, is the fact that the normalization of the filibuster has effectively eliminated any reason for a Senate majority to adopt a budget.

It is important for people to understand what a budget resolution is in the United States Congress. Unlike some other systems, a budget has no real legal authority. It is not a law. The actual budgeting for the federal government is done by appropriations laws. The budgets approved by the different Houses of Congress are basically just statements of intent. It is mostly just a declaration of what the majority wants to do.

A budget passed by the majority in the House of Representatives can easy be turned into individual bills that are basically guaranteed to be approved by the chamber. This is not the case in the Senate because of the filibuster.

While a budget is not subject to a filibuster basically every bill is. The Senate majority could approve a budget but thanks to the filibuster being used to create a de facto 60 vote threshold, the majority is unable to even get any bills based on its budget out of the Senate.

There is no point in creating a legislative blueprint when you lack the ability to turn those plans into action. The routine use of the filibuster has eliminated any logic for a Senate majority approving budget resolutions. Idiotic “no budget no pay” rules could possibly force a Senate majority to slap the word budget on something but that is cosmetic nonsense. It is focusing on a symptom instead of the cause. If you really want the Senate to care about approving a budget it needs to actually matter.

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