What's the Senate Thinking?
April 29 marks the third year in which the U.S. Senate has not passed a budget -- a staggering dereliction of duty, particularly given the country's near-$16 trillion debt. But that's not the Senate's only blockbuster failure under the leadership of Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). From spending to jobs to energy policy, the Senate has totally dropped the ball, leaving one to wonder, "What's the Senate thinking?"
But it's not just a matter of a simple failure or benign neglect, like forgetting to take out the trash. The way some in the Senate are behaving is equivalent to buying a dog but then deliberately choosing not to feed it. These men and women sought elective office, won a seat in the Senate and now have the power to take action to confront America's problems. But under the leadership of Majority Leader Reid, they're making the choice not to do so.
When it comes to the Senate's failure to pass a budget, the facts are bleak. From 2012 to 2022, federal spending per household is projected to rise to $34,602 -- a 15 percent increase. Without entitlement reform, that spending is swelling to a crippling level, exceeding 40 percent of the economy by 2050. Despite all this, the Senate is sitting on its hands and not pursuing the significant reforms that are necessary -- and opting not to pass a budget for three years is emblematic of their reckless inaction.
Last week, in fact, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND), whose primary responsibility is to marshal bipartisan support of a budget resolution, declined to take on the task, remarking that it would be too difficult in an election year. Last year was not an election year, and they didn't bother to do it then, either.
Meanwhile, as America continues to wrestle with staggering unemployment and weak job creation, Senate Democrats yesterday blocked an effort to help workers, employers and the U.S. economy.
Republican lawmakers moved to halt the National Labor Relation Board's (NLRB) latest effort to give unions the upper hand in organizing work places. Earlier this year, the NLRB enacted a rule that speeds up union elections, making it easier for unions to grow their ranks by unionizing more workplaces while depriving workers of a truly informed choice in the matter.
Normally when unions try to organize workers in a business, they plan their efforts before they request an election. Once the employer receives an election request, they have a limited amount of time to inform their workers of why unionization might not be right for them. Under the NLRB's new rule, employers will have even less time to make their case, all to the detriment of their employees. Heritage's James Sherk explains the rest of the story that the workers won't hear:
Employers, not union organizers, will explain that unions often do not achieve their promised wage increases, but they always take up to 2 percent of workers' wages in dues. Employers will also point out patterns of union corruption and clauses in union constitutions that levy stiff fines against workers who stray from union rules. Employers are free to tell workers what the union organizers do not.
Because Senate Democrats blocked the effort to put a stop to the NLRB's rule, workers will be more likely to be pushed into unions. And make no mistake, the economic consequences won't be good. Unions reduce profitability, meaning that unionized companies invest less and create fewer new jobs than nonunion companies. Overall, that's bad news for workers, companies and the U.S. economy.
Perhaps the ultimate example of what the Senate is all about emerged yesterday when Majority Leader Reid said he would not help in the House Republicans' effort to force President Barack Obama to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, which could bring up to 830,000 barrels of oil per day from Canada to the United States (as well as jobs, economic growth and tax revenue). "Personally I think Keystone is a program that we're not going -- that I am not going to help in any way I can," Reid said. "The president feels that way. I do, too."
Under Reid's leadership, that's the name of the game in the U.S. Senate. Regardless of the country's exploding debt, soaring energy prices or 12.7 million unemployed workers, Reid and his like-minded colleagues are flat out refusing to do the job they were hired to do, all in accord with the president's agenda. So if you're wondering what the Senate's thinking, now you know. Unfortunately, the country's best interests aren't what they have in mind.