BACKGROUND: 100 Days Since the Senate Passed a Budget and Republicans Are Still Blocking the Bipartisan Budget Conference They Called For

FLASHBACK TO MARCH 23, 2013:  The Senate Budget Passes, and Senate Republicans Praised The “Open” And “Full Debate” On The Senate Budget. 

Minority Leader McConnell Thanked Chairman Murray And Senator Sessions For Conducting “An Open And Complete And Full Debate.”  “I want to commend Senator Murray, Senator Sessions, and the majority leader for conducting an open and complete and full debate. I know everyone is exhausted, and people may not feel it at the moment, but this is one of the Senate’s finest days in recent years, and I commend everyone who has participated in this extraordinary debate.” [Congressional Record, 3/23/13

Senator Sessions: “I Thank Senator Murray For Allowing Us To Have Free Ability To Speak And Debate.” “Mr. SESSIONS. That is the concern we have today. We will head now into the votes. I thank Senator Murray for allowing us to have free ability to speak and debate. We do not agree on these issues, but we will head into an afternoon that hopefully will allow our Members a full opportunity to get a vote on amendments, if they believe strongly in them. We hope we do not have needless amendments, that Members are looking and understand the needs of our time.” [Congressional Record, 3/23/13

Today, July 1st, it has been 100 days since the Senate Budget passed. Senate Democrats have attempted to move to conference 15 times, and each time a Senate Republican blocked the request. 

Just a few months ago, Republicans were eager to go to conference, but once they got what they wished for, Republican leadership ran as fast as they could in the other direction. Over the past 100 days, Republican leadership has followed a Tea Party-backed strategy of obstruction, and has offered up excuse after excuse for blocking conference and ignoring regular order. 

Democrats aren’t the only ones calling for regular order—many Senate Republicans have tired of their leadership’s delaying tactics. 

With a bit more than a month left before August recess, will Senate Republicans stop blocking a bipartisan budget conference and allow the House and Senate to begin bipartisan negotiations—or will they continue to block negotiations until they can manufacture a crisis?

In case you haven’t been tuning into the budget debate over the last few months, below is some background information including: Republican leaders’ excuses for blocking the regular order they called for, top quotes from Republicans and Democrats who have called for a budget conference, a list of unanimous consent requests to go to conference, and select coverage of Republican budget obstruction.

Democrats are going to continue talking about this, the American people are sick and tired of gridlock and constant crisis—and the 100-day mark is a great opportunity to cover it.

Republican leaders were eager for regular order and a budget conference before the Senate Budget passed…

Senator McConnell: If The Senate Budget Is Different Than The House Budget, “Send It Off To Conference. That’s How Things Used To Work Around Here. We Used To Call It Legislating.” “A second term presents the opportunity to do things differently, and in the Senate that means a return to regular order. Later this week, the House plans to send the Senate a bill to address the debt limit in a timely manner. Once we get it, the Senate should quickly respond. If the Senate version is different than the one the House sends over, send it off to conference. That’s how things are supposed to work around here. We used to call it legislating.”  [Floor Remarks By Senator McConnell, Transcript via Courier-Journal, 1/22/13] 

Sen. Sessions: Once The House And Senate Have Passed Budgets “The Work Of Conferencing Must Begin.”  “U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Ranking Member of the Senate Budget Committee, issued the following statement today regarding the House's announced strategy to force the Senate to pass a budget: ‘Speaker Boehner and his House Republicans are exactly right to insist that the Democratic Senate fulfill its moral responsibility and statutory duty to produce a budget, joined with a sustained effort to cut spending and move our nation towards a balanced budget. Secret deals have not worked and are an affront to popular democracy. The right process is the regular order. The House produces its budget-as it has-and the Senate passes its budget, all in accordance with the Budget Act of 1974. Under that law, the Senate Budget Committee must approve a budget resolution by April 1st. From there, the law requires the budget to be considered on the Senate floor where it must receive 50 hours of open amendment and debate. A budget cannot be filibustered and is adopted by a simple majority in both committee and the full Senate. Then, once the issues and differences are clarified by this open process, the work of conferencing must begin. It will not be easy because the challenge is great-and has become greater each year as a result of inaction by the Senate.” [Statement By Senator Jeff Sessions, 1/18/13

…but once they got what they wished for, they ran as fast as they could in the other direction, and offered excuse after excuse.

Excuse #1: They need a pre-conference “framework”….

Speaker Boehner “Defended The Decisions To Delay” Creation Of A Budget Conference, Stating That No Formal Conference Would Be Appointed Until There Was “Some Basic Framework Worked Out.” “Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Thursday defended the decision to delay the creation of a formal budget conference committee to reconcile the wildly different House and Senate budgets. Boehner said he was following ‘regular order’ by allowing chairmen to hash out an informal framework first. ‘The chairmen of the two committees are talking, and as you all know, it’s customary that there’s no appointment of a formal conference until such time as there’s some basic framework worked out from which they can proceed,’ Boehner said.” [The Hill, 4/18/13]

Excuse #2: They need a guarantee that the conference won’t be used to raise the debt limit or raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans or biggest corporation…

Senator Ted Cruz: “We Have No Objection To Proceeding To Conference If The Leader Is Willing To Agree Not To Use It As A Back-Door Tool To Raise The Debt Ceiling.”  “Let me be explicit: We have no objection to proceeding to conference if the leader is willing to agree not to use it as a back-door tool to raise the debt ceiling,” Cruz said Tuesday. ”The American people are rightly tired of back-room secret deals to raise the debt ceiling even further, and we should not be complicit in digging this nation even further into debt on merely a 50-vote threshold.” [Roll Call, 5/8/13]

Senator Mike Lee: “I Strongly Object” To Any Back-Room Deal That Would Raise The Debt Ceiling Or Taxes. “‘What I strongly object to is any procedural trick that could be used to negotiate behind closed doors, in a back-room deal, an agreement to raise the debt limit or to raise taxes,’ Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said in echoing Cruz’s call on the Senate floor.” [Roll Call, 5/8/13

Excuse #3: They want a whole new budget debate, complete with an additional fifty hours of debate and amendments on the House Budget… 

Senator Sessions: Under Regular Order, We Need To Have A Full Debate On The House Budget With 50 Hours And The Ability To Offer Amendments. “Under regular order, Chairman Murray has indicated we should go regular order, but under regular order, what we do is we have the House budget at the desk right now. It's a responsible budget. Under regular order, it should be brought to the floor under section 305-b of the congressional budget office. We need to have full debate on that budget with 50 hours and the ability to offer amendments. So, madam president, I think this is what we should be doing. Instead, our Democratic colleagues and Senator Reid have offered consent requests that short circuit the regular order. Their request would automatically bring the House budget off the calendar, replace it entirely with the Senate's own budget, and assume its passage without a single minute of debate or without a single vote being taken. That's not the regular order.” [Floor Remarks by Senator Sessions, LIS Transcript, 5/16/13] 

Excuse #4: Before any budget discussions on issues affecting America right now, Democrats and Republicans need to agree on a 30 year budget outlook… even though we know the thirty-year outlook can’t be accurately predicted!

New York Magazine Headline: Republicans to Wage 30-Year Budget War [New York Magazine, Jonathan Chait, 6/11/13]

Republicans Argue That “The Two Parties Must Set 30 Years' Worth Of Policy Now, And That This Is Such An Urgent Task That Republicans Are Justified In Maintaining Harmful Budget Sequestration And Even Threatening To Refuse To Lift The Debt Ceiling.”  “But that is not the Republican position. The Republican budget stance apparently holds that the two parties must set 30 years' worth of policy now, and that this is such an urgent task that Republicans are justified in maintaining harmful budget sequestration and even threatening to refuse to lift the debt ceiling if we don’t do it. (Taken literally, the GOP stance is that Congress would be justified in blowing up the world economy to force Obama to solve the budget problems of 2043, and not just 2023, as he proposes.)” [New York Magazine, Jonathan Chait, 6/11/13

Senator Johnson Offered Thirty-Year Projections At A White House Meeting With Republicans On Budget Issues. “Graham confirmed that the negotiations at this stage are partly to define the problem.  Republican lawmakers and White House officials discussed their differing projections of the severity of the nation’s budget problems.  Johnson said the president’s advisers presented their own numbers. The freshman senator, an outspoken budget hawk and member of the Senate Budget Committee, offered competing projections.” [The Hill, 6/12/13]

Senator Johnson: “Nobody Is Going To, You Know Accurately Predict” A 30 Year Projection.” TODD: This issue of 10 years versus 30 years, was the White House receptive to it? JOHNSON: I believe so. They -- you know we presented our numbers a couple of weeks ago. They came back this week and they -- they had it broken down into decade number one, decade number two, decade number three. Now, they have different numbers. Now our -- our staffs are working with OMB's staff to -- let's compare the assumptions. Let's face it we're talking about 30 year projections. TODD: Right. JOHNSON: Nobody is going to, you know accurately predict that. But we -- the only way you're going to come to a solution is if we agree on the size of the problem. [Interview with MSNBC, 6/17/13] 

Senator Murray has led Democrats in pressuring Republicans to agree to move to a bipartisan budget conference, and many Senate Republicans have joined in. 

Murray: “Instead Of Fighting Over Whether Or Not We Should Be Engaging In Bipartisan Talks, We Should Be Working Together To Get More Americans Back To Work, To Protect Our Economic Recovery, And Lay The Foundation For Strong Middle Class Growth In The Future.” [Floor Remarks, 6/19/13] 

Senator Murray: Give The American People Certainty, Not Another Crisis “My biggest concern is that we’re being dragged by the Republicans into a nightmare scenario this fall, between our two budget allocations and the Republicans’ insistence that the debt ceiling be tied to this…People in this country want certainty; they want us to be responsible; they want us to come to a solution. I have been asking time and time again to go to conference so that we can give them that certainty… The insistence that we don’t go to conference is dragging us into another economic calamity this fall.” [Fiscal Times, 6/19/13

Senator Murray: We Must Go To Conference, Replace The Sequester. “Murray said she could envision a conference agreement despite sharp differences between the two budget blueprints.‘I think, for one thing, one of the most important things we can do is replace the sequester,’ she said. ‘It’s a very damaging economic policy — not smart, never was supposed to be implemented — and we need to replace that with much smarter deficit reduction. And that’s something we can do.’” [CQ, 5/21/13] 

Senator John McCain: “It's Not The Regular Order For A Number Senators, A Small Number, A Minority Within A Minority Here, To Say They Will Not Agree To Go To Conference.”  [CNN Political Ticker, 5/23/13

Senator Bob Corker: “I Think We Should...For Four Years, We’ve Been Waiting For A Budget. To Now Keep From Appointing Conferees Is Not Consistent.” [CQ, 5/14/13] 

Senator Tom Coburn: “I’m OK With It Going Now…It’s Not A Good Position To Be In.” [Politico, 5/9/13] 

Senator John Boozman: “I Would Very Much Like To See This Resolved Very Quickly So That We Can Go To Conference. I Would Like To See Us Appoint Conferees.” [Huffington Post, 5/23/13

Senator Thad Cochran: “I Think There Ought To Be Discussion, But Ultimately We Have To Go To Conference” [Huffington Post, 5/23/13]

Senator Lamar Alexander: “I Think It Would Be Better If We Went To Conference On The Budget, And We Have Been Saying For Four Years That That’s What We Want To Do, And I Think We Should Do It,” [Politico, 5/23/13

Senator Jeff Flake:  “Would Like To See A Conference Now” [Politico, 5/9/13

Senator Rob Portman: “In Favor Of Starting The Conference Process” [Politico, 5/9/13]

Senator Roger Wicker:  “I Would Say By The End Of Next Week, We Probably Should Be Ready To Go To Conference” [Politico, 5/9/13]

Senator Susan Collins: “Regular Order Is Going To Conference” And The Republican Party’s Stance On Conference Is ‘Ironic In the Least.’”[Talking Points Memo, 5/21/13

Senator John Cornyn: “Favors Beginning Conference Talks” According to Politico. [Politico, 5/23/13

Senator Johnny Isakson : “I Don’t Have A Prerequisite To Going To Conference…We’ve Always Talked About Needing Budgets. I Doubt If We Can Reconcile It Between The Two Bodies, But It Would Be Worth Trying.” [CQ, 5/14/13

Senator Jeff Sessions: “I Think The Right Thing To Do Is Get Ourselves To Conference.” Huffington Post, 5/23/13

Below are the dates and participants in requests for unanimous consent to go to budget conference.

  1. 4/23 Senator Reid requested unanimous consent to go to conference, Senator Toomey blocked.
  2. 5/6 Senator Reid requested unanimous consent to go to conference, Senator Cruz blocked.
  3. 5/7 Senator Murray requested unanimous consent to go to conference, Senator McConnell blocked.
  4. 5/8 Senator Warner asked unanimous consent to go to conference, Senator McConnell blocked.
  5. 5/9 Senator Murray asked unanimous consent to go to conference, Senator McConnell blocked.
  6. 5/14 Senator Warner asked unanimous consent to go to conference, and Senator McConnell blocked.
  7. 5/15 Senator Wyden asked unanimous consent to go to conference, and Senator McConnell blocked.
  8. 5/16 Senator Murray asked unanimous consent to go to conference, and Senator Lee blocked.
  9. 5/21 Senator Murray asked unanimous consent to go to conference, and Senator Paul blocked.
  10. 5/22 Senator Kaine asked unanimous consent to go to conference, and Senator Rubio blocked.
  11. 5/23 Senator McCaskill asked unanimous consent to go to conference, and Senator Lee blocked.
  12. 6/4 Senator Murray asked unanimous consent to go to conference, and Senator Rubio blocked.
  13. 6/12 Senator Kaine asked unanimous consent to go to conference, and Senator Lee blocked.
  14. 6/19 Senator Murray asked unanimous consent to go to conference, and Senator Toomey blocked.
  15. 6/26 Senator Murray asked unanimous consent to go to conference, and Senator Cruz objected


Select coverage of the Democrats’ push to move to a budget conference and Republicans’ budget obstruction. 

Politico Headline: “Democrats Call For Regular Budget Order” [Politico, 4/23/13]

Washington Post Wonkblog Headline: Reid Wants To Call Republicans’ Budget Bluff [Washington Post, 4/23/13]

Talking Points Memo Headline: “Why Republicans Suddenly Became Afraid Of Their Own Budget Shadow” [Talking Points Memo, 4/17/13]

Huffington Post Headline: “Senate Budget Allows Democrats To Accuse Republicans Of Hypocrisy” [Huffington Post, 4/18/13]

New York Times Editorial Headline: “The House Prefers Chaos To Order” [Editorial Board, New York Times, 5/5/13]

The Hill: Floor Action Blog Headline: “Senate GOP Denies Formation Of Budget Conference For Third Time” [The Hill, Floor Action Blog, 5/7/13]

The Hill: Floor Action Blog Headline: “GOP Blocks Budget Conference For Fourth Time” [The Hill (Floor Action Blog, 5/8/13]

CQ News Headline: “Senate Democrats Reviving GOP Tactics in Daily Budget Motions” [CQ News, 5/9/13]

The Hill, Floor Action Blog Headline: Reid: GOP Afraid Of 'Backlash From Radical Tea Party' On Budget Conference [Floor Action Blog, The Hill, 5/7/13]

The Hill Headline: “McConnell: GOP Won't Vote To Raise Debt Limits Without Concessions” [The Hill, 5/7/13]

The Hill, Headline: “Murray: GOP Are Holding The Budget Process ‘Hostage’”—[The Hill, 5/9/13]

New York Times Editorial Board:  The Wisdom of Bob Dole [New York Times Editorial Board, 5/28/13]

Politico Headline: “Senate GOP Engaged In Budget Battle” [Politico, 5/23/13]

The Fiscal Times: How Republicans' Brilliant Budget Tactic Backfired [Fiscal Times, 5/29/13]

Washington Post Plum Line: Paul Ryan Admits GOP Can’t Govern Without A Hostage Crisis [Washington Post, 5/29/13]

Huffington Post Headline: “Senate Republicans Oppose Budget Blockade By Tea Party In Growing GOP Feud” [Huffington Post, 5/23/13]

NPR Headline: Select Senators Stall Budget Process [NPR, 5/30/13]

Associated Press Headline: “Tea Party vs. Old Guard In Senate GOP Rift” [Associated Press, 5/24/13]

Politico Headline: “John McCain Hits Republicans On Budget, Again” [Politico, 5/23/13]

CNN Political Ticker Headline: “Day 3: McCain vs. Tea Party Senators” [CNN Political Ticker, 5/23/13]

Washington Post Plum Line Blog Headline: “Tea Party Senators Jump The Shark” [Washington Post Plum Line Blog, 5/23/13]

New York Times Gail Collins Headline: “The Women vs. the Ted” [New York Times, Gail Collins, 5/25/13]

The Daily Beast Headline: Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Mike Lee: When Freshmen Attack [The Daily Beast, 5/30/13]

Washington Post Eugene Robinson Headline: “The GOP is too juvenile to govern” [Washington Post, Eugene Robinson, 5/30/13]

Wall Street Journal Washington Wire Headline: “McCain-Cruz Feud Turns To Budget” [Wall Street Journal Washington Wire, 5/23/13]

UPI Headline: “McCain Out Of Touch With Senate GOP, Cruz Says” [UPI, 5/24/13]

The Hill Headline: “Cruz To McCain: There Are 'More Wacko Birds In The Senate Than Suspected'” [The Hill, 5/23/13]

Huffington Post Headline: “John McCain Schools Mike Lee On Washington D.C. Politics” [Huffington Post, 5/23/13]

Talking Points Memo Headline: “McCain To GOP: Stop Blocking Budget Negotiations Or Dems Will Change The Rules” [Talking Points Memo, 5/23/13]

Talking Points Memo Headline: “John McCain To Mike Lee: Learn How Congress Works” [Talking Points Memo, 5/23/13]

Mediaite Headline: “John McCain Goes After Fellow GOPer On Senate Floor: He ‘Ought To Learn’ How Congress Operates” [Mediaite, 5/23/13]

Washington Post Headline: “GOP Moderates Feud With Conservatives Over Stall Tactics On Budget” [Washington Post, 5/21/13]

Politico Headline: “Senate GOP Sharply Divided On Budget” [Politico, 5/21/13]

Roll Call Headline: “McCain, Collins Mock GOP Blockade on Budget Conference” [Roll Call, 5/21/13]

Huffington Post Headline: “John McCain, Susan Collins Oppose 'Bizarre' Rand Paul, Ted Cruz Demand” [Huffington Post, 5/21/13]

The Hill Headline: “McCain Bucks Party By Objecting To Restrictions On Budget Conferees” [The Hill, 5/21/13]

Talking Points Memo Headline: “First Divide, Then Conquer” [Talking Points Memo Editor’s Blog, 5/21/13]

CQ Headline:Republicans Battle Republicans in Senate Over Budget Conferees” [CQ, 5/21/13]

MNI News Headline: “Two US Republicans Challenge Strategy on Blocking Budget Talks” [MNI News, 5/21/13]

Talking Points Memo Headline: “McCain, Collins Slam Republicans For Budget Hypocrisy” [Talking Points Memo, 5/21/13]

New York Times Headline:  Dispute over budget deepens a rift within the GOP [New York Times, 5/25/13]

New York Magazine Headline:  Why John McCain hates Republicans again [New York Magazine, 5/25/13]

Washington Post Headline:  Ted Cruz vs. John McCain: Welcome to the new normal in the Senate [Washington Post, 5/24/13]

Washington Post Headline:  Why Dems haven’t (completely) given up hope on GOP cooperation [Washington Post, 5/24/13]

MSNBC Headline:  McCain manages to surprise [MSNBC, 5/24/13]

Huffington Post Headline: Mitch McConnell, Rand Paul gang up on GOP [Huffington Post, 5/24/13]

Washington Post Plum Line Headline:  Why Dems Haven’t (completely) given up hope on GOP cooperation [Washington Post Plum Line, 5/28/13]

MNI Wire Headline: US Experts Say Hill's Budget Stalemate Is Comic, Consequential [MNI Wire, 5/28/13]

Politico Joe Scarborough Headline:  Marco Rubio’s Risky Gamble [Politico, 5/28/13]

Washington Post Plum Line Headline: Today’s GOP Is Fundamentally Unserious About Governing [Washington Post Plum Line, 5/28/13]

Politico Headline: “Democrats Seize On Politics Of Budget” [Politico, 6/5/13]

MNI Wire Headline: “US Senate Clashes For 12th Time About Entering Budget Talks” [The Main Wire, 6/4/13]

MNU Wire Headline: “Reid: GOP Can’t ‘Get Away’ With Blocking Hill Budget Talks” [The Main Wire, 6/4/13]

Politico Headline: “John Mccain Tired Of ‘Fruitless’ Budget Fight” [Politico, 6/4/13]

The Hill Headline: “Mccain: Reagan Would Not Have Disagreed With Having A Budget” [The Hill, 6/4/13

Atlanta Journal-Constitution Headline: “Congressional Republicans Subvert Constitutional Duty” [Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 6/4/13]

Buzzfeed Headline: “John Boehner Sits Back As Ted Cruz Fights Budget Negotiations” [Buzzfeed, 6/5/13]

The Hill Headline: “Price Differs With GOP Senators On Budget Conference, Debt” [The Hill, 6/5/13]

Politico Headline: “House GOP Sees Upside To Budget Conference Delay” [Politico, 6/16/13]

The MNI Wire Headline: “Reid: Warns GOP To Abandon 'Brinksmanship' On Debt Hike” [The Main Wire, 6/17/13]

The Hill Headline: “Reid: GOP Doesn’t Want Public To See ‘How Crazy Their Budget Priorities Are’” [The Hill, 6/17/13]