The House and Senate budget committees have approved their resolutions for the fiscal year 2010 budget and sent them to the floor for debate by the full chambers. According to Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D., the Senate will start debate Monday morning with a final vote likely late Thursday or on Friday. The House will debate their version this week as well.
The Senate committee shot down a proposal from Senate Republican Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., that would require the Senate to find 60 votes to pass a budget resolution that made the total public debt amount 90% or more of gross domestic product in any given year.
Budget Ranking Member Judd Gregg, R-N.H., later proposed an amendment to require 60 votes to pass the budget resolution if it would call for a debt level of 60% of GDP and a deficit that is 3% of GDP, which are the same levels required to join the European Union. That amendment failed 13-10. Another amendment failed by the same margin that would have required 60 votes to pass a resolution if it would result in $80,000 per household in debt service liability. Several other Republican amendments requiring 60 votes to pass a budget resolution under certain situations also failed on party-line votes.
Conrad said these amendments would hinder attempts to limit spending in the appropriations process. The budget resolution sets limits for the annual spending, and members must get 60 votes to waive the budget.
"Everybody who's been around here knows how difficult it is to put a budget resolution together," Conrad said. "If we had to get 60 votes for a budget resolution, then we wouldn't have a budget resolution. I think that would be a very bad thing for budget discipline because we would lose all of the disciplining mechanisms; all of the 60-vote hurdles that are in a budget resolution. It would all be lost for the purpose of dealing with the appropriations process. So I think the result would be the reverse of what you would hope for and what I believe very strongly is needed around here, discipline."