The Washington Examiner’s Byron York answers the question I’ve had since I learned last night of the deal between President Obama and Republicans on tax cuts and unemployment benefits extension. The Democrats have the majority, so why didn’t they pull out their “reconciliation” game plan as they did on health insurance? In other words, why couldn’t they get their way — a tax hike on “the rich” — with just 51, rather than 60 votes? Answer: what goes around comes around. (emphasis is mine)
To pass a measure by reconciliation, the Senate must pass a budget that contains what are called reconciliation instructions. But this year, as they faced an angry electorate and grim prospects in the midterm elections, the Democratic leadership made the specific decision not to pass a budget. Revealing their spending priorities to voters already unhappy with out-of-control federal expenditures was just too risky, so Sen. Harry Reid and party leaders punted, even though passing a budget is one of Congress’ core constitutional responsibilities.
With no budget, there could be no reconciliation. And no possibility of using reconciliation to extend the Bush tax cuts — which were originally passed with bipartisan support — on the Democrats’ terms. Shirking your constitutional responsibilities can have consequences.
Here’s hoping all members of Congress learn the lesson.