Transcript of Remarks by Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND) at press conference announcing FY 2013 spending levels and enforcement, March 20, 2012. View charts used during press conference and pictures taken.

I am here to discuss the budget deeming resolution that I will file in the Senate later today. This resolution sets the spending limits for fiscal year 2013 at the levels agreed to by the Congress and the President last year and set out in last summer’s Budget Control Act. It allows the Appropriations Committees to proceed with their work in drafting bills for next year. And it ensures the Senate will have the tools to enforce those spending limits that we agreed to on a bipartisan basis.         

I want to emphasize that we do have a budget. It is the law of the land. It was passed last year. It is in place. Those who say we do not have a budget have either failed to pay attention to what they voted on, or they are deliberately trying to mislead the public. The Budget Control Act was passed by the House of Representatives; it was passed by the United States Senate an on overwhelming bipartisan vote; it was signed into law by the President. It is now the law of the land. And it established the key components of the budget for both 2012 and 2013.

Here is the language from the Budget Control Act itself. It is very clear that the Budget Control Act is intended to serve as the budget for 2012 and 2013. It states, and I quote: “For the purpose of enforcing the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 through April 15, 2012 ... the allocations, aggregates, and levels set in subsection (b)(1) shall apply in the Senate in the same manner as for a concurrent resolution on the budget for fiscal year 2012.” That same language is repeated for 2013.

In many ways, the Budget Control Act was even more extensive than a traditional budget resolution. Number one, it has the force of law, unlike a budget resolution that never goes to the President. As all of you know, a budget resolution is purely a Congressional document. The Budget Control Act was a law. Number two, it set discretionary caps for 10 years, instead of the one year normally set in a budget resolution. Number three, it provided enforcement mechanisms, including two years of “deeming resolutions,” which allow budget points of order to be enforced. And fourth, it created a reconciliation-like “Super Committee” process to address both entitlements and tax reform. And it backed that process up with a $1.2 trillion sequester.

So I think we can put to rest the claims that there is no budget in place or that we haven’t enacted a budget. A budget was enacted for this year and next year in the Budget Control Act of last year.

Last week, we received CBO’s updated budget estimates, which allowed me to complete work on the budget deeming resolution for 2013. The filing of this deeming resolution was required under the Budget Control Act. I filed a similar resolution for 2012 back in September.
And the Budget Control Act is crystal clear that the spending limits in the resolution should be set at the levels agreed to in the Budget Control Act. Again, here is the language taken directly from the law. It states: “Not later than April 15, 2012, the Chairman of the Committee on the Budget shall file ... for the Committee on Appropriations, committee allocations for fiscal years 2012 and 2013 consistent with the discretionary spending limits set forth in this Act...” It doesn’t say at a level “below the limits set forth in this Act.” It says at a level “consistent with the limits set forth in this Act.”

And let’s remember what these limits mean. Under the Budget Control Act spending caps that are put in place in the law, discretionary spending is cut by $900 billion below the CBO baseline over the next ten years. And that is not including the sequester cuts. That is just the result of the Budget Control Act spending limits.                    

Now our House Republican friends seem to be walking away from these levels, even though they agreed to them just seven months ago. Let’s look at what they themselves said just last summer. Here is what the House Budget Committee Chairman said on the House floor on August 1st of last year, and I quote:

“What [the Budget Control Act] has done is it has brought our two parties together.  So I would just like to reflect for a moment that we have a bipartisan compromise here.  That doesn’t happen all that often around here; so I think that’s worth noting.  That’s a good thing....  And what are we doing?  We are actually cutting spending while we do this.  That’s cultural.  That’s significant.  That’s a big step in the right direction.  We are getting two-thirds of the cuts we wanted in our budget, and, as far as I am concerned, 66 percent in the right direction is a whole lot better than going in the wrong direction.”

So last summer, our Republican House colleagues were pleased to be getting 66 percent of what they wanted. On that basis, they made an agreement. They shook on it. And they passed it as law. Now, they are threatening to walk away from their agreement.

And it seems as though our House Republican colleagues are on their own. Because, at least so far, the Senate Republican leadership has agreed that we should keep to the spending limits that we agreed on just last year. Here is what Senate Minority Leader McConnell said on the Senate floor last month, and I quote: “We have negotiated the top line for the discretionary spending for this coming fiscal year…[W]e already have that number...There is no good reason for this institution not to move forward with an appropriations process that avoids what we have done so frequently under both parties for years and years: either continuing resolutions or omnibus appropriations.”  

The Senate Republican leader concluded, “I hope we can join together and do the basic work of government this year and do it in a timely fashion.”

I hope our House Republican colleagues are listening. Now, it is very clear we have a budget for this year and for next. That budget is in law. And pursuant to that law, I am filing the deeming resolution in the Senate today that provides the numbers that the appropriators need to proceed with their work for the year.  BCA also sets the revenue levels and the mandatory spending levels for the year. Again, I hope our House Republican friends are listening.

We still must come together on a longer term plan to deal with the long-term debt threat. But the short-term budget is in place. It is the law. It was included in the Budget Control Act that they agreed to last summer. It provided for about $900 billion in discretionary spending cuts over the 10 years of that agreement.  

So the Senate is proceeding with its business. I will be filing the deeming resolution for 2013 today. And we will be moving forward with appropriations bills at the levels that everyone agreed to just last year. House Republicans, I hope, would do the same. If they fail to do so, they will once again threaten to shut down the government and needlessly imperil the economic recovery.