The House Republicans, who under the leadership of their new speaker, Rep. Paul Ryan, was supposed to prove this year that they could govern and not merely obstruct, has failed one of its most important tests. The Republicans are so divided they can’t even bring their own budget to the House floor by the April 15 deadline.
House Republicans failed in this basic part of their job because they are divided between the “severely conservative” wing led by Ryan – to use the inartful language of Mitt Romney when he was running for president with Ryan as his running mate – and the bat-dung crazy conservatives of the House Freedom Caucus, for whom the record reductions in domestic government spending and shredding of the social safety net embraced by the broad majority of House Republicans are not Draconian enough.
Congress was supposed to have a budget blueprint approved by April 15. Now, as Politico reported Wednesday, “There’s a better-than-even chance that the House and Senate will never pass a budget together, and there’s an even better chance that neither chamber will pass a budget before the election.”
One consequence is that the Congressional Progressive Caucus People’s Budget won’t get a vote on the House floor this year as an alternative to what the House Republicans propose. That means the public won’t have an opportunity to see their representatives wrestle with the contrast between a budget that invests in the country and its people, and a budget that coddles the wealthy and leaves the rest to fend for themselves – and there will not be a formal vote to which they can be held accountable.
In one sense, it is a good thing that the House Republican budget did not get out of the starting gate. It is a truly execrable document that would slow economic growth and cause considerable pain for millions of people if it were to become law.
The fact that Congress missed this budget deadline likely means that the federal government will continue to operate under the budget caps negotiated last year, which were designed to last through the 2017 budget year. The House Freedom Caucus objection was in fact on that point – the agreement allows for modest increases in spending for fiscal 2017 that the ultraconservative members of that group did not want to see happen.
In the meantime, there is still reason to get your congressional representative to say that he or she supports the People’s Budget. The budget stands for fundamental policies that would serve to make the economy work for everyone: that we should invest in rebuilding our infrastructure (to the tune of $1 trillion over the next few years), make preschool and debt-free college available to everyone, commit to cutting our poverty rate in half in 10 years, strengthen Social Security and expand health care benefits, and ensure that the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes.
Since the People’s Budget won’t be debated on the House floor, it will be up to the people who believe in its principles to raise the budget as an issue in meetings with their representatives, in town halls, and in letters and website comments in local news media. (People Demanding Action has set up one tool you can use to email your member of Congress.) In a presidential campaign that often seems more dominated by bombast than the serious struggles of working people, progressives can still use this budget as a way to find out where both incumbents and challengers stand on the direction of the country.