Who's To Blame?

The government hasn’t even shutdown yet, and already many Republicans are blaming the Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV).  

Now you can fault Senator Reid for some things. He doesn’t always stand up to the Republicans the way he should and he is more boring than the teacher in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. But this shutdown cannot be blamed on him, or any Democrat.

Anyone want to go to conference? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

Anyone want to go to conference? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

The shutdown is not possible because the government is running out of money (though that may happen soon). Rather, it is because there is no Federal budget yet, though this is not for lack of trying. The Senate passed a budget on March 23rd and the House passed a budget on March 21st. However, the Senate did not agree to the House's budget, and the House rejected the Senate's plan.

The problem is not that no budget has been proposed, the problem is no budget has been agreed to. The House and the Senate have to send the same bill to the president to sign. When the House and Senate pass different versions of the same bill,  members of the two houses of Congress will start a conference committee to work out the differences in a bill. A conference committee is a special group of Senators and Representatives appointed by their parties, usually the chairs and ranking members of relevant committees. In this case, senior members of House and Senate budget committees would likely make up a conference committee. Their job is to try to create a budget plan that both houses can agree on. 

Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), the chair of the Senate Budget Committee, has been calling for a conference committee on the Budget since the House and Senate passed their respective bills. She has been joined by many other Democratic Senators, and some Republicans, like Senator McCain (R-AZ). At this point, a conference committee is the only way Congress will pass a budget, but efforts to create a conference committee are being blocked by Republicans in the Senate and the House.

Had Congress gone to conference in March, when these different budget bills were passed, our country may not be facing a shutdown. Right now, it is Senator Reid who refuses to negotiate, but if Republicans in the House and the Senate had not refused to negotiate for upwards of five months, this last minute legislating would not be necessary.

First Published: September 30, 2013