Hoyer: ‘I Would Like to See a Budget Pass’

By Matt Cover | January 22, 2013 | 6:06 PM EST

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) – House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said he would like to see a budget passed through both congressional chambers, the House and the Senate, something that has not happened in nearly four years.

“I would like to see a budget pass the House and the Senate,” Hoyer told reporters at his weekly press briefing on Tuesday.

Budgets were passed in the GOP-dominant House over the last two years but not taken up in the Democrat-controlled Senate.

Hoyer said the problems causing Senate Democrats to not pass a budget for the last four years were political, explaining that by not passing a budget senators avoided having to take politically risky or embarrassing votes.

Democrats have held a majority in the Senate since 2007. Republicans have held a majority in the House since 2011.

“I think the problem in the Senate with passing a budget was not so much about an unwillingness from Senator [Kent] Conrad (D-N.D.) – who was the chairman of the Budget Committee – to want to pass a budget as it was about a difficulty, politically, in the Senate of amendments and one-upsmanship and things that didn’t necessarily have to deal with the budget per se.”

The Senate has not passed a budget in 1,365 days – nearly four years – something House Republicans have said must happen before they will agree to a three-month extension of the debt ceiling, the legal limit on outstanding federal debt.

Hoyer made the common Democratic point that discretionary spending levels for the next several years had already been set by the Budget Control Act of 2011, fulfilling the essential function of a budget.

Federal budgets – while non-binding – serve to set yearly discretionary spending levels.

Actual spending is done through the 12 annual appropriations bills normally passed by Congress. The budget resolutions are the first step in this process, although they are not required to pass any appropriations bills.

Democrats, by not passing a budget, have relied on large, all-in-one spending bills and continuing resolutions to prevent Republicans from cutting spending through the normal budgeting and appropriations process, thereby forcing the government to go from funding deadline to funding deadline.

Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on Meet the Press on Sunday that the Senate would pass a budget this year, in response to House Republicans’ ultimatum that they do so in exchange for a three-month debt ceiling increase.