Friday, May 20, 2011

Dems on Senate Budget Committee Pass on the Opportunity to Show Leadership

Most of the people I've spoken to on the House side of the Hill were never very confident about the chances of a proposal coming from the "Gang of Six." I've heard folks from both side of the aisle refer to the Senate as "the dark side" because they simply don't seem to be taking the lead on a variety of issues --- especially when it comes to a compromise on the budget. So when the Gang of Six essentially confirmed the House was right to have faith in it by becoming the legislative equivalent of Five Guys, I hoped the Democrats on the Senate Budget Committee would take advantage of the opportunity.

Instead of doing that, however, it looks like they're simply going to wait on the bipartisan groups that nobody else has much confidence in. Senator Conrad, the Chairman of the Budget Committee, for instance, said yesterday that "Democrats on the Budget Committee are very close to an agreement. We will have a budget. But, after broad consultation, we have decided to defer a budget mark-up because of the high-level bipartisan leadership negotiations that are currently underway."

Since he'd probably be accused of stalling, Conrad quickly added how the compromises proposed by bipartisan groups have a history of influencing the final proposals is something that we've seen during previous tough budget negotiations. "The results of those negotiations may need to be included in a budget resolution that would be offered in the weeks ahead. That was the case for both the 1990 and 1997 deficit reduction plans, where a budget resolution and accompanying reconciliation process were used to implement the agreements."

While Conrad is correct that there will have to be a compromise eventually, it would be nice for someone to take the lead in proposing a budget that represents progressive values and fights for the working class. With the Tea Party dominating the debate in the House and the bipartisan groups not making progress, the Senate Democrats were one of the few groups left that could have legitimately moved forward on those values. Unfortunately, Conrad and his colleagues have decided to pass on the chance to show some leadership and kick some ass for the middle and working class.

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