When President Barack Obama delivers his third State of the Union Address Tuesday night, it will mark 1,000 days since the Democrat-controlled Senate has passed a traditional budget, and congressional Republicans are trying to make sure anyone who will listen knows it.
Republicans in both chambers are spending the hours before Obama's speech on an all-out media assault highlighting this factoid in press conferences, YouTube videos, statements, radio and TV interviews, and even a Twitter campaign using the hashtag "#1000Days."
The last time the Senate passed a traditional year-long budget was April 29, 2009. While this is considered a vital role for congress, the promotions arguably overstate the gravity of this failure to act. The congressional budget is just an outline for recommended spending levels, and does not direct appropriators to divvy out funds in any exact manner. As the Peter G. Peterson Foundation explains, "While budget resolutions are not laws, and the Congress can act on funding and revenue legislation without first adopting budget resolution, they can enforce good fiscal discipline."
In the days leading up to Obama's address, Republicans appeared to delight in being able to point out all that has happened in the world within 1,000 days. "912 days elapsed b/t Pearl Harbor & D-Day," read a post Tuesday morning on the Republican Study Committee's Twitter feed. "It's been #1000days since Senate Dems passed a budget."
"The last time they passed a budget, you had never heard of the iPad," a post on the group's website read, complete with a video hammering the point home. "Tiger Woods was only known for his golfing abilities. General Motors had never declared bankruptcy. You had never heard of Swine Flu. And the national debt was $4 trillion smaller than it is today."
House Speaker John Boehner's office also released a video that borders on the over-dramatic, flashing shaky images of Democratic leaders over music fit for Batman villains. Meanwhile, Republican House and Senate budget chiefs Paul Ryan and Jeff Sessions took to the pages of National Review magazine to lambast Democrats, calling the day "a sad milestone in the history of the United States Senate."
Despite the lack of a traditional budget, the federal government is still funded through 2012. Lawmakers passed a series of caps on government spending through the Budget Control Act, passed in August, and then agreed to an appropriations bill in December that funds the government through the current fiscal year.
A spokesman for Senate Majority Harry Reid pushed back on the GOP media campaign, pointing out that Republicans in both chambers agreed to the spending caps. "I'd point you (and them) to the Budget Control Act, which as you (and they) know passed both houses in August," Reid spokesman Adam Jentleson said in an email.
Looking ahead, Obama plans to unveil his new budget proposal for the next fiscal year on Feb. 13, part of which he will outline in Tuesday's State of the Union, and will no doubt set off a fresh round of fights on Capitol Hill.
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