We all knew this was coming, because the White House telegraphed it a couple of weeks ago, but today President Obama stands formally in violation of the Budget Control Act of 1921. This law requires the President to submit a budget request to Congress no later than the first Monday in February.
Unlike the laws that force you and I to do things like, say, purchase federally mandated health care packages, this isn’t a law-law. It’s more like a suggestion, which the almighty Unitary Executive can ignore at will, without consequence. Such laws are enforced solely by the media establishment, which can decide not to make a big deal about them. For another example, see the “War Powers Act.”
And this concept of suggestion-law isn’t limited to the Unitary Executive, because there’s a law requiring the Senate to pass a budget, too. That law plus five bucks will get you a small latte at Starbucks, as long as you can make do without the premium flavor additives.
The notion of a Constitutionally restrained government doesn’t work very well if the State decides it can simply ignore, or at worst finesse, laws it doesn’t like, on the grounds that nobody can really stop it. The bottom line to the abuse of executive power is, “Are you willing to impeach the President over this? No? Then shut up.” Once a good number of voters signal their willingness to bend on the matter of holding government strictly accountable to the law, the last bit of restraint is swept away, because the unlimited State has plenty of resources to buy the indulgence of such flexible citizens.
Not surprisingly, President Obama’s political adversaries are the only ones who seem upset that he doesn’t care about his legal responsibilities. Here’s House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH):
For the fourth time in five years this White House has proven it does not take trillion-dollar deficits seriously enough to submit a budget on time.In contrast, Republicans will meet our obligations and pass another budget in the coming weeks that addresses our spending problem, promotes robust job creation, and expands opportunity for all Americans. The president???s Senate now must pass a budget this year for the first time in nearly four years, or lose its pay. It???s long past time for the president to do his job. This week, the House will act on a measure requiring the president to submit a balanced budget, and we hope he uses this opportunity to offer the American people his plan to do that.
House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI):
I???m disappointed the President has missed his deadline. But I???m not surprised. In four of the last five years, he???s failed to submit his budget on time. We still don???t know when we???ll receive the president???s request. And for nearly four years, Senate Democrats haven???t passed a budget at all. We deserve better.
We spend $1 trillion more than we take in each year. In fact, we spend $3 for every $2 we take in. And we can???t keep that up. If we stay on this path, our finances will collapse. The economy will stall. And the most vulnerable will suffer. We need a budget that reflects our priorities???that expands opportunity. The fact is, we cannot achieve those goals unless we budget responsibly.
Every time the President and Senate Democrats shirk their duty, they delay choices we need to make. We???ve still got time, but it???s dwindling. Every missed deadline is a missed opportunity. We need to get serious about spending now.
The House Budget Committee will do its job. We???ll write a budget???and submit it on time. In the past two years, we???ve offered our solutions to the country???s fiscal challenges. Now the President must do the same.
It’s funny, but I seem to recall President Obama making a big deal about how “budgets reflect our priorities” during the presidential campaign. He talked about having an awful lot of very expensive priorities during his second inaugural speech (sadly, job creation and economic growth were not among them.) Why couldn’t he put together a budget proposal that would reflect his priorities, while showing us how he would reduce the federal deficit? It’s almost as if he thinks the presidency is all about making demands and teaming up with his media buddies to score political points. In fact, judging by the way he’s treated Rep. Ryan in the past, it’s almost as if he thinks making a serious budget proposal is for chumps.
Update: Statement from Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ), senior Member of the House Budget Committee and Chairman of the Financial Services Subcommittee on Capital Markets and Government-Sponsored Enterprises:
For the fourth time in five years, President Obama has missed the legal deadline to submit his annual budget proposal to Congress. President Obama, like everyone else, is bound by the rule of law, and I expect him to comply immediately.
Instead of kicking the can down the road, I was proud to author the Republican Study Committee???s (RSC) budget the last two years. Reaching balance in less than ten years was not easy. The time to save future generations of Americans from the burden of uncontrollable debt, higher taxes, and massive unemployment is now. To do nothing, to sit by and let our debt crisis continue to spiral out of control, would run counter to the American tradition of leaving our country better off than we found it.
The right choices are not always easy ones, but they are necessary. We must restore fiscal sanity to Washington. We owe it to the American people, our children, and our grandchildren.