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In more than three years, the U.S. Senate has not passed a good budget or a bad budget -- it hasn’t passed any budget at all, according to U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance.
The Republican congressman made that point during a recent TV interview in response to a question regarding the budget proposal put forth by Wisconsin congressman and Republican vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan.
"I think it’s an honest proposal and Paul Ryan would be an adult at the table regarding issues of importance, including preserving Medicare," Lance said in a Sept. 5 interview on NJToday. "The Senate has not passed a budget in more than three years, not a good budget, not a bad budget, no budget."
The federal government has continued to spend money, but Lance is right that the Senate has not passed a "budget resolution" in more than three years. That resolution represents the congressional budget plan, serving as a blueprint for federal fiscal policies.
Our PolitiFact colleagues have fact-checked similar claims before and, depending on the wording, those statements have landed at different points on the Truth-O-Meter.
First, let’s explain more about the congressional budget process.
The House and Senate are supposed to adopt a budget resolution that covers the upcoming fiscal year and at least the following four fiscal years. By itself, a budget resolution does not actually spend money, but instead serves as the framework for appropriations bills and other subsequent legislation dealing with budgetary matters.
The federal government doesn’t shut down in the absence of a budget resolution, since Congress has taken other steps to spend money and set certain budgetary guidelines.
Still, not adopting a budget resolution means Congress has not fulfilled its duties as part of the official budget process to lay out a plan for future budgetary decisions.
To back up Lance’s claim, his chief of staff, Todd Mitchell, pointed out in an e-mail how the Senate last passed a budget resolution on April 29, 2009. A report by the Congressional Research Service confirms Mitchell’s point.
On that date, the House and Senate adopted a budget resolution for fiscal year 2010, marking the last such plan approved by Congress.
The Senate has not passed budget resolutions for fiscal years 2011, 2012 or 2013. The GOP-controlled House passed budget resolutions for fiscal years 2012 and 2013, but they were rejected by the Democrat-led Senate. Fiscal year 2013 starts Oct. 1.
But the Democratic chairman of the Senate Budget Committee has countered that the Budget Control Act of 2011 is meant to serve as the budget for fiscal years 2012 and 2013. Enacted in August 2011, that legislation included provisions to raise the nation's debt ceiling and also set caps on certain types of future discretionary spending for 10 years.
"I just say to you, a budget is a limitation on spending. The Budget Control Act contained very clear limitations on spending for 2012 and 2013. So when our friends say there’s been no budget passed by this body, oh yes, there has," Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND), the committee chairman, said Monday on the Senate floor. "There’s been a budget passed for 2012, one for 2013. Instead of a resolution, it was done in a law."
However, while the Budget Control Act includes some features of a budget resolution, it lacks others, according to federal budget experts.
William Galston, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a former policy adviser to President Bill Clinton, said in an e-mail that "a completed budget is expected to do much more than set spending levels for discretionary programs."
"By that standard, the congressman is correct," Galston added, referring to Lance. "The 2011 BCA kept the government open, but it didn’t constitute a full budget."
Roy Meyers, a political science professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, agreed in an e-mail: "The BCA is not a budget: a plan for the use of the government's financial resources."
In a TV interview, Lance claimed: "The Senate has not passed a budget in more than three years, not a good budget, not a bad budget, no budget."
The congressman’s claim is solid, given that the Senate has not passed a budget resolution since April 29, 2009. Congress has taken other steps to spend federal dollars and set certain budgetary guidelines, but that resolution represents a plan to guide future budgetary decisions.
We rate the statement True.
To comment on this ruling, go to NJ.com.
NJToday, Congressman Lance Discusses Race Against Chivukula, Sept. 5, 2012
PolitiFact Ohio, John Boehner says Senate Dems haven't passed a budget in more than 1,000 days, April 26, 2012
Congressional Research Service, Congressional Budget Resolutions: Historical Information, March 13, 2012
Congressional Research Service, The Congressional Budget Process: A Brief Overview, Aug. 22, 2011
Minnesota Public Radio, PoliGraph: Partly right, but Bills' budget claims could use some context, June 6, 2012
PolitiFact Florida, George LeMieux rips Sen. Bill Nelson for Senate's budget failure, May 24, 2011
Washington Post, 14 reasons why this is the worst Congress ever, July 13, 2012
Senate Budget Committee, The Budget Control Act Serves as the Budget for 2012 and 2013, accessed Sept. 7, 2012
E-mail interview with Allen Schick, a public policy professor at the University of Maryland, Sept. 7, 2012
E-mail interview with Jason Peuquet,The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, Sept. 7 and 10, 2012
E-mail interview with Todd Mitchell, chief of staff to Congressman Leonard Lance, Sept. 10, 2012
Congressional Research Service, The Budget Control Act of 2011, Aug. 19, 2011
Congressional Research Service, The "Deeming Resolution": A Budget Enforcement Tool, June 26, 2012
Senate Budget Committee, Senate Democrats Set Spending Levels For 2013 and Budget Enforcement Through 2022, March 20, 2012
Brookings Institution, Improving the Federal Budgeting Process, April 11, 2012
E-mail interview with William Galston, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, Sept. 10, 2012
Congressional Research Service, Introduction to the Federal Budget Process, Dec. 2, 2010
PolitiFact, White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew says budget requires 60 votes in Senate, Feb. 13, 2012
E-mail interview with Roy T. Meyers, political science professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Sept. 10-11, 2012
Senate Budget Committee, Chairman Conrad Floor Speech on Economic and Budget Issues, Sept. 10, 2012
U.S. Government Printing Office, Overview of congressional budget process, accessed Sept. 11, 2012
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