For the last time ever, President Barack Obama is about to introduce his budget to Congress. Congress, sadly, doesn’t appear to want it.
Throughout the entirety of the Obama administration, the divide between Congress and the White House has been growing steadily wider. From a first year in office where Democrats briefly controlled all three arms of government to today, where both the House and Senate are now under Republican control, getting any semblance of governing through the political process has become a more more laborious uphill battle each session.
Now, any attempt at even pretending that Congressional Republicans might be willing to work with the Commander-in-Chief has been thrown out the window, as this year’s budget process seems to signal. “President Obama is expected to release his final budget plan on Tuesday, but Republicans on Capitol Hill are indicating that they won’t give it much thought,” reports The Hill. “The chairmen of the House and Senate Budget Committees issued a joint statement late last week announcing that, breaking with precedent, they wouldn’t invite the Office of Management and Budget director to testify before their respective panels to discuss the president’s budget.”
Refusing to hear the budget isn’t just a massive break with precedent, it is a total rejection of any sort of decorum or even respect for the office of the President, and the GOP appears to be well aware of that fact. According to Fox News, House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price and Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi said they will “ignore” the President’s budget and “will instead go straight into crafting their own budgets and castigate what the White House engineered.”
Meanwhile, the administration isn’t impressed by the opposition’s political theater on the subject, calling the antics a “Donald Trump”-esque way to pander to their voters. “White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Republicans’ refusal to play ball was just as bad as Trump’s refusal to take part in the last GOP debate after getting into a nasty spat with Fox News,” reports Politico. “‘They’re just not going to show up,’ Earnest said during the daily briefing, adding that the maneuver smacked of a ‘Donald Trump approach’ to the debate over spending priorities. He then accused the GOP committee leaders of being wobbly knee’d, saying the boycott ‘raises some questions about how confident they are about the kinds of arguments that they could make.'”
According to Earnst, this is the first time in 16 years that the Director hasn’t been invited to brief Congress – a period leading back into the Bill Clinton presidency, and shows that the Republican party has essentially shut the door to any attempts at making the government function as long as President Obama is in office. That statement may not be far from the truth, either. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made it clear just last week that when it comes to any major policy issues, as far as the GOP is concerned everything is done until President Obama is out of office.
“For anyone who thought Congress might accomplish something in 2016, this dose of cold water comes from the Hill’s Alexander Bolton, who reports that probably ain’t happening,” reports Vox.com. “‘Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), seeking to protect his majority in a tough cycle for Republicans, is leaning toward holding back several measures that have bipartisan support but are divisive in his conference.’ So, for example, that bipartisan criminal justice reform bill that looked so promising, the one Republicans and Democrats had worked so hard on to reach a compromise. Yeah, the Senate won’t be voting on that. Or the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Or the Authorization for Use of Military Force. Or really anything. Because why force anybody to take tough votes?”
The GOP’s refusal to actually try to govern for the next 11 months or longer shows exactly what a dangerous predicament the entire Republican party is in. A vote on literally any issue could either anger their base, or anger the moderates they need to get reelected, depending on which way they cast their ballots. Either possibility appears to spell disaster for a conservative movement so dramatically split in two.
Of course, if the GOP can’t govern and can only block legislation, it’s the American people who will suffer from a government that grinds to a halt. The budget battle is just the first sign of a crisis just waiting in the wings.