Why Senate Democrats Cancelled The Budget Mark-Up

“The fact is what we don’t have is a longer term plan. What we need, I believe, is at least a 10-year plan. That’s why I’m going to mark up the first week that we’re back in session.” – Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, interview on “Fox News Sunday,” April 8, 2012 

After not adopting a concurrent budget resolution since April 29, 2009—1,086 days ago—the Senate’s Democrat majority appeared set this week to hold a mark-up in the Budget Committee. But the mark-up was cancelled at the last minute, a move that the New York Times reported “surprised Republicans and Democrats, who were expecting him to produce a Democratic budget that… would have been the first detailed deficit reduction plan in three years.”

  • Conrad stunned observers Tuesday when he announced that he would not follow through on his expressed intentions to offer, mark up, and pass a Democratic budget resolution… Many suspect that Conrad’s plan was derailed at the last minute by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) and other Senate Democrats, who did not wish to cast political difficult votes on health care, energy, taxes, and government waste just months before the 2012 election.” Washington Free Beacon, “Sacrificial Lamb,” April 19, 2012
  • “Bowing to the political realities of an election year and the wishes of Democratic leadership, Conrad did not allow the committee’s Republicans to offer amendments or ask that the committee vote on his suggestion or send recommendations to the full Senate… The decision by Democrats not to pursue a full, 10-year spending plan means the Senate will fail to adopt such a plan for a third year a row -- a record since Congress adopted budget process reforms in 1974. Republicans have made this failure a centerpiece of their efforts to retake the Senate in November…” Washington Post, “New spending clash looms: Obama threatens veto on House bills that would raise caps,” April 18, 2012
  • “The Democratic-led Senate hasn’t passed a budget blueprint since April 2009, and it won’t do so again this spring as election-year pressures consume Capitol Hill. In fact, Conrad’s budget ‘markup’ Wednesday won’t even be a real markup because senators won’t actually offer amendments or vote.” Politico, “Conrad budget a study in gridlock,” April 18, 2012
  • “His committee began a review of a modified version of the so-called Bowles-Simpson plan… but the panel’s ‘mark-up’ session will not feature the usual amendments or a vote. Instead, the Democratic budget blueprint for fiscal 2013, which starts on October 1, will sit in a legislative holding pattern…” Reuters, “Senate Democrat Conrad offers budget but no vote,” April 19, 2012
  • “Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., scolded his own leadership earlier this year, saying they don’t want to ‘risk the election’ by voting on an actual budget with actual spending figures.” Washington Examiner, “Senate Dem: Deal with budget in lame duck session,” April 19, 2012
  • “The Senate Budget Committee debated Bowles-Simpson on Wednesday but Conrad declared that no amendments to his proposal will be made and no conclusion to the ‘markup’ would likely occur before the November elections… Conrad and Democrats present argued that closed-door negotiations are the only way to go from here.” The Hill, “Senate voteless ‘markup’ may be another blow to Bowles-Simpson,” April 19, 2012
  • “Conrad announced that there was no plan to actually vote on the budget either at the committee level or with the full senate at least until after the election, effectively rendering meaningless the proposed committee hearing tomorrow that was supposed to ‘mark up,’ or rewrite, the proposal after debating changes.” Washington Examiner, “Senate budget chair won’t hold vote on budget plan,” April 18, 2012
  • “As he called for talks over a long-term plan for reducing the debt, the leader of the Senate Budget Committee made clear Wednesday that he won’t advance a traditional fiscal 2013 budget resolution… Budget panel Democrats largely supported Conrad’s approach, in part because it’s an alternative to tough votes that could come up under a normal resolution.” CQ Today, “Budget Tracker Briefing: Not So Fast,” April 19, 2012
  • “Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad Wednesday defended his decision to introduce the Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction plan as his fiscal year 2013 budget resolution, but faced withering attacks from Republicans for his refusal to consider amendments to his package or allow for votes on alternative budgets.” MNI News, “US’s Conrad Defends FY’13 Budget, Hears GOP Skepticism, Scorn,” April 19, 2012
  • “In a stunning backtrack that virtually guarantees Congress for the third year will be unable to produce a budget, Senate Democrats’ top budget writer Tuesday canceled this week’s expected votes on a 2013 fiscal blueprint… His move stunned Senate Republicans, who had been preparing amendments for Wednesday and Thursday… Senate Democrats say a budget isn’t needed because last year’s debt deal already set maximum discretionary spending numbers. Still, those numbers don’t replace the broader budget document that sets goals for entitlement programs, taxes and discretionary spending for the next decade.” Washington Times, “Democrats punt on Senate budget bill for 3rd year,” April 18, 2012
  • Conrad said as recently as Sunday that he would stage a committee vote on a budget, even if party leaders were not inclined to consider it in the full Senate” Reuters, “Senate Democrat Conrad offers budget but no vote,” April 19, 2012

NOTE: To view a Budget Committee Republican staff analysis of Chairman Conrad’s “mark,” please click here.