If Senate Democrats Won't Pass a Budget, They Shouldn't Be Paid

It's pretty frightening when we have to start treating our elected officials like recalcitrant teenagers.

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Sunday marked the third year in a row that the Democratic-controlled Senate failed to pass a budget. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has completely abdicated his responsibility to the American people. Make no mistake, Reid has done this with the implicit support of President Obama. Why have the Democrats sat on their hands while our economy suffers and 23 million Americans are looking for jobs? They have done so because it is politically expedient.

Poll after poll shows that the people of this country are concerned about the level of spending and our growing deficit and debt. One would think that this would create a political imperative to tighten our budgetary belt; instead, the Democrats have done the equivalent of taking off the belt and throwing it in the back corner of some dark, dusty closet. They have behaved this irresponsibly because they know that any budget Senate Democrats would pass would provide tremendous fodder for their opponents. So, for political gain, they have chosen obfuscation over responsibility. They spend our money; they just don't admit it.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the budget and deficit.]

As part of its "Bankrupting America" education project, a group called Public Notice released this video on Monday and ran ads this weekend drawing attention to the Senate's inaction. Their message was straightforward: "Stop pointing fingers and start doing your job." It's pretty frightening when we have to start treating our elected officials like recalcitrant teenagers.

The Senate looks particularly bad because the Republican-led House of Representatives has done its job. Under the leadership of Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and House Speaker John Boehner, the House passed its budget along a party-line vote in March. Whether you loved it or hated it, at least the House Republicans were willing to tell taxpayers how they were planning to spend our money.

[Read the U.S. News debate: Will the New Ryan Budget Plan Hurt the GOP in 2012?]

At least one member of the Senate has had enough. Sen. Dean Heller—Reid's Republican fellow Nevadan—has introduced legislation called the "No Budget, No Pay Act" (S.1981). In this legislation he brilliantly links lawmaker compensation to passing a concurrent budget resolution and related appropriations bills. If they miss their deadline, no pay is rewarded retroactively. Last Sunday, Heller issued this statement:

The time to pass a budget is now. Our debt has increased by more than $5 trillion under this Administration in the past three years. Members of Congress are willfully refusing to put our nation on a path to long-term fiscal responsibility, which threatens our economic security and places a greater burden on our children and grandchildren. Passing a budget every year is one of Congress' most basic responsibilities, yet the Senate has been completely incapable of performing this function. I introduced the No Budget, No Pay Act to force Congress to take this responsibility seriously. If Members of Congress are not doing their job, then they should not get paid.

I have never met the man, but I am now his biggest fan.

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