OMB Acting Director Jeffrey Zients appeared before the Senate Budget Committee today to answer questions about President Obama’s FY 2013 budget, and he had a rough go of it. Trying to defend the indefensible, he repeatedly found himself tongue-tied. At one point, ranking Republican Jeff Sessions asked Zients a simple question: under President Obama’s FY 2013 budget, does federal spending increase, compared to current law? It does, of course, but Zients found the question to be a conundrum. He tried a variety of diversions, but was never able to answer.
Later, he was asked about White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew’s claim that the Senate Democrats haven’t passed a budget for three years because Republicans have filibustered it. That is an absurd claim; as we noted here, budget resolutions by law cannot be filibustered and pass with a simple 51-vote majority. In today’s hearing, committee chairman Kent Conrad tried to salvage the administration’s lie by suggesting to Zients that Lew was referring to the Budget Control Act (the debt ceiling compromise) that passed Congress last summer, which did require 60 votes in the Senate.
This made no sense, since 1) Lew never referred to the BCA but rather was answering questions about why we haven’t had a budget for three years, and 2) the BCA passed with more than 60 votes and was not filibustered. So the exchange was rather comical. Later, when confronted with the obvious falsehood of Conrad’s helpful suggestion, Zients admitted that Lew was simply wrong:
The Obama administration would be a bad joke, but for the fact that the consequences of its lies and its failed policies are not funny.