Byron York‘s latest Washington Examiner article offers some details about the legislative obstacles that stopped the Democratic majority from pushing its preferred tax proposals through the the U.S. Senate: 

Those Bush cuts are expiring, and Democrats, still the majority party, wanted to extend them for everybody except individuals who make more than $200,000 a year and couples who make more than $250,000. Republicans, who have just 42 votes, wanted to extend all the cuts for all income levels. On Saturday, Democrats were unable to beat a Republican filibuster, and their version of tax cut extension went down to defeat.

So why not try reconciliation? If it was used to pass the Bush cuts in the first place, couldn’t it have been used to extend them? That way, Democrats, who have 58 votes, could have passed their bill with just 51 and would not have had to worry about a GOP filibuster. Taxes on the “rich” would go up, and progressives everywhere would be celebrating today.

Alas, it didn’t happen. And, although the details are complicated, the Democrats have only themselves to blame.

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.