When President Obama released his administration's final budget request on Tuesday morning, it was an even more futile exercise than in years past. After outlining the policy priorities of his final year in office during last month's State of the Union and releasing a series of previews of his proposals for the last couple of weeks, Congressional Republicans had already decided they didn't have to bother to do their job and review the budget before outright rejecting it.
In a break with a 41-year-old tradition dating back to the start of the modern budget process in 1975, the Republican chairmen of the House and Senate budget committees announced last week that they wouldn't bother to host the president’s budget director, Shaun Donovan, to present the president's entire budget in a hearing before Congress.
"Nothing in the president's prior budgets — none of which have ever balanced — has shown that the Obama Administration has any real interest in actually solving our fiscal challenges or saving critical programs like Medicare and Social Security from insolvency," House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-Ga.) wrote last week. "Rather than spend time on a proposal that, if anything like this Administration's previous budgets, will double down on the same failed policies that have led to the worst economic recovery in modern times, Congress should continue our work on building a budget that balances and that will foster a healthy economy."
Obama's budget includes $19 billion for a broad new cybersecurity initiative, a $10-a-barrel fee on oil, and $1 billion for a cancer "moonshot" program led by Vice President Joe Biden.
Even before the president released his budget on Tuesday, however, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), had echoed his lower chamber colleague's sentiments to wholly reject it without consideration, arguing that "instead of hearing from an administration unconcerned with our $19 trillion in debt, we should focus on how to reform America's broken budget process and restore the trust of hardworking taxpayers."
Congressional Democrats, of course, are fuming over the Republicans' displays of boastful intractability they describe as "disrespectful to the committee members, the public and the president."
Vermont Independent and Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, who has ruffled some feathers on Capitol Hill with his denouncement of Hillary Clinton's congressional support as "the establishment," lead Senate Democrats in railing against the Republicans' breach of decorum today after their counterparts in the House decried the GOP's move earlier this week.
"The president's budget is more than a political document; it is a compilation of the opinions of experts throughout the government," Sanders, the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, wrote in a letter with his Democratic colleagues (and Angus King) to Sen. Enzi. Sanders and the Senate Democrats said they were "disappointed" and "dismayed" with the Republicans' behavior.
Going a step further than Sanders and the Senate Democrats, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, (D-Calif.), blasted Rep. Price, saying his "contemptuous attitude is unworthy of the U.S. Congress and the American people" and calling out what she called the "corrosive radicalism" that has taken a stranglehold of the Republican Party.
For his part, House Speaker and one-time Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan welcomed the decidedly uncivil tone GOP leadership has started the year off with. “This was a decision made by the budget committee, but we support the chairman,” Ryan's spokesperson told the New York Times.
“President Obama will leave office having never proposed a budget that balances — ever," Ryan pounced in a statement released minutes after the budget became public. "This isn’t even a budget so much as it is a progressive manual for growing the federal government at the expense of hardworking Americans."