The Democratic Congress hasn’t adopted a budget in more than two years. This isn’t just irresponsible, it is illegal. Jeff Sessions, the ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, has been hammering away at the Democrats’ dereliction, and things are starting to get a little hot for Harry Reid and Kent Conrad. Loyal Democrats like Dana Milbank and Tim Kaine are criticizing them for blowing off the budget, and Senate Democrats who have to fact the voters next year are reportedly getting nervous. So Harry Reid, naturally, is trying to change the subject.
For the last two mornings, Reid has started proceedings in the Senate with a demagogic blast at Sessions and the Republicans. Yesterday morning he said:
Madam President, on this side of the aisle for Democrats, protecting the seniors on Medicare is our top priority. I heard our friend, the Ranking Member on the Budget Committee, come here and talk for hours, and he keeps talking about things that really have no bearing on what I think is important for the country today, and that is we know that the Republicans have put forward a budget that destroys Medicare.
This morning, it was more of the same. It would certainly come as a surprise to most voters that the federal budget–or lack thereof–along with the broader issues of federal spending and debt, “have no bearing on what…is important for the country today.”
Funny, though, that Reid should bring up Medicare in this context, since that program raises another instance of the Democrats’ flouting of their legal duties. Coincidentally, yesterday Senator Sessions and Paul Ryan, on behalf of the House Budget Committee, wrote to President Obama to ask him to comply with federal law relating to Medicare. You can read the letter in its entirety here; these are excerpts:
On May 73,201l, the Medicare Trustees not only warned us that Medicare’s insolvency date had advanced five years since last year’s report but also confirmed that the program is now running a $32 billion cash-flow deficit. To pay current benefits, the program is redeeming tens of billions of dollars in treasury debt instruments and dramatically contributing to our nation’s surging publicly held debt. More troubling is that, in total, Medicare faces $36.8 trillion dollars in unfunded obligations over the next 75 years, according to Medicare’s non-partisan Chief Actuary.
For the sixth consecutive year, the Trustees have projected that general revenues will account for more than 45 percent of all of Medicare’s outlays. When Medicare breaches this limit, section 802 of P.L. 108-173, the Medicare Prescription Drug Improvement and Modernization Act of 2003 (MMA), requires the President to submit a legislative proposal to Congress to respond to the warning within 15 days of the next budget. Yet again, the Medicare Trustees have issued a funding warning that requires action by your administration. In fact, the Trustees have urged action “sooner rather than later” in order to “minimize adverse impacts on vulnerable populations.”
As Chairman and Ranking Member of the House and Senate Budget Committees, respectively, we are deeply disappointed that your administration continues to ignore this legal obligation. In 2008, the previous administration submitted a proposal to Congress that took steps to address Medicare’s fiscal imbalance. By contrast, your administration has not provided a response to the annual Medicare trigger, ignoring the law in each of the past three years. This year your budget did not even acknowledge the existence of the Medicare funding warning. …
Under the budget you submitted to Congress, Medicare as we know it will soon be unable to meet its promises to current beneficiaries. … Given the severity of this problem and your legal obligations, the nation needs leadership on this issue. Therefore, we reasonably expect your administration to submit a detailed legislative proposal to Congress addressing the Medicare funding warning as required by law.
Democrats in both the executive and legislative branches are scofflaws. While they love to orate piously about the “rule of law”–usually when the law does not, in fact, say what they want it to–they happily ignore the law when it suits their political convenience. This should be a scandal, but Washington reporters have been too busy studying Sarah Palin’s emails and Anthony Weiner’s Twitter account to notice.