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Steny Hoyer: 'What Does a Budget Do?' The 'Fact Is, You Don't Need' One

"The fact is, you don’t need a budget."

Congress does not need an official federal budget because it can simply adopt appropriations bills and authorization policies as needed to keep operating.

Well, that’s what House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) seems to think.

(Related: Jay Carney Has 'No Opinion' on Whether Senate Should Pass Budget or Not)

“Mr. Hoyer, around the same time of the State of the Union, I think it was the same day, Republicans were trying to hit Senate Democrats for 1,000 days without passing a budget, and then you talk about this milestone today, 400 days without a jobs bill in the Republican House,” a journalist said to Hoyer during a Capitol Hill briefing.

“But then on Friday [Democratic Senator Harry] Reid said that he didn’t think they needed to bring a budget to the floor this year [and that] the Budget Control Act can serve as a guideline,” the reporter added.

Mr. Hoyer took a moment to respond.

“What does the budget do?” Hoyer asked. “The budget does one thing and really only one thing: It sets the parameters of spending and discretionary caps. Other than that, the Appropriations committee are not bound by the Budget committee’s priorities.”

He continued: “The fact is, you don’t need a budget. We can adopt appropriations bills. We can adopt authorization policies without a budget. We already have an agreed-upon cap on spending.”

Mr. Hoyer then went on to criticize Republicans for not passing a budget for “a number of years,” citing the time they controlled the House, Senate, and the presidency under President George W. Bush.

“So that this 1,000 days they haven’t passed a budget, the Republicans went for equal lengths of time without passing a budget. I think 05’ and 06’,” Hoyer said.

However, contrary to Mr. Hoyer's claims, this is not true. In fact, he is simply trotting out a very tired talking point.

Back in 2010, when Hoyer was House Majority Leader, he said that “the Republicans didn't have a budget in '02, '04, '06." John Boehner (R-OH), at that time the Minority Leader, shot right back at Mr. Hoyer, claiming that "the House has never failed to pass a budget in the modern era."

According to PolitiFact, this is absolutely true:

According to the Congressional Research Service, the nonpartisan research arm of Congress, the House has indeed passed a budget every year since the Congressional Budget Act first took effect for fiscal year 1976. So if the House does not pass a budget for fiscal year 2011, it will be the first time since the current rules went into force.

However, it should be noted that the House has “not always been joined by the Senate in passing a budget -- a factor that explains the difference between what Boehner and Hoyer said."

Since 1983 -- the first year the House and Senate stopped passing two budget resolutions annually and began passing one per year -- the two chambers failed to pass a joint budget bill on four occasions. For fiscal year 2003, the Senate, then under Democratic control, failed to pass a budget resolution of any kind, and on three other occasions (fiscal years 1999, 2005 and 2007) the House and Senate failed to reconcile their different bills and pass a compromise measure.

Because Congress always works on the budget resolution for the coming fiscal year, the Republican Congressional majority failed to pass a finished budget in three years: 1998, 2004 and 2006.

What does this mean?

So Boehner is correct that the House has always passed a budget resolution, even though on three occasions, it later failed to work out differences with the Senate and pass a final, identical version, and once the Senate, under Democratic control, had no budget resolution...So we rate Boehner's statement True.

Which leads us back to Mr. Hoyer’s comments.

Hoyer claims that Congressional Republicans highlighting the fact that the Senate has failed to pass a budget in over 1,000 days is simply an “argument to dissemble and distract the attention on the lack of productive accomplishment in the House of Representatives,” Christopher Goins of CNS News reports.

“Again, I remind you, when we had a Republican president and we controlled the House and the Senate, twice as many bills -- more than twice as many bills -- were signed by President Bush as has been signed by President Obama,” Hoyer said.

“Why? Because we [congressional Democrats] worked with President Bush,” said Hoyer. “This Republican leadership’s not interested in working with President Obama and that’s unfortunate.”

Again, it would appear that Mr. Hoyer's comments warrant challenging.

“The House Republicans passed a budget for fiscal year 2012 back in April 2011 – not one House Democrat supported the bill, and only four House Republicans voted against it. The budget bill went nowhere in the Democrat-controlled Senate,” Goins points out.

In fact, the last time the Senate passed a budget was on Apr. 29, 2009.

“The federal government has since been operating on funds approved through a series of continuing resolutions (CR), raises in the debt ceiling, and several appropriations bills,” Goins writes. “The last CR was passed in mid-December 2011, by both the House and Senate, and signed by President Barack Obama.”

That $915-billion deal, compounded with several appropriations measures, will keep the federal government running though the end of fiscal year 2012, on Sept. 30.

“We do not need to bring a budget to the floor this year. It’s done, we don’t need to do it,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), said last Friday, referencing the last debt ceiling deal.

“It’s been more than 1,000 days since Senate Democrats have offered a budget plan to the American people,” Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) said in reference to Reid’s remarks.

“Now, once again, the Senate’s ineffectual Democrat majority balks at the task of leadership. … He obviously continues in his belief that it would be politically foolish for his members to go on record in support of any long-term vision. … Budget Control Act spending caps, crafted behind closed doors and rushed to passage at the 11th hour under threat of panic, do not even approach the definition of the budget process that the law requires.”

(H/T: Weasel Zippers)

One last thing…
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