Debt Up $5T Since Senate Last Passed a Budget

By Matt Cover | October 29, 2012 | 3:38 PM EDT

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

– The national debt has risen by $5 trillion in the three-and-a-half years since the Senate last passed a budget on April 29, 2009. On that date, the debt was $11.2 trillion. As of October 29, 2012 it stood at $16.2 trillion.

The last budget resolution passed by a vote of 53-43 in the Senate, marking the last time a budget resolution passed that body. In fact, in 2011 and 2012 the Senate never even drafted a budget resolution. The 2009 budget covered fiscal year 2010. Democrats, led by Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), have held a majority in the Senate since 2007.

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-S.D.) cancelled a planned budget drafting hearing earlier this year, saying that the issue was better left until after the election.

While they do not technically determine federal spending and taxation levels, federal budgets set what are known as top-line levels for federal spending, setting the limit for what the appropriations committees in each house can spend. Each appropriations committee then takes those levels and divides them up among the various federal agencies.

By failing to pass a budget resolution, the Senate has effectively denied Congress the ability to set spending priorities each year, instead relying on short-term continuing resolutions and broad spending deals such as 2011’s Budget Control Act – which set federal discretionary spending caps for the next ten years. However, that law only set a cap on discretionary spending but did not set the spending levels for various federal departments such as health, educations, and defense.