Congress Should Have Listened To Obama's Budget Proposal

| by Nicholas Roberts
President Barack Obama.President Barack Obama.

The eight years President Barack Obama has been in office have been wrought with constant conflict between the White House and Republicans in Congress. This same dynamic played out again, when congressional Republicans refused to even hear Shaun Donovan, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, testify on behalf of the president's proposed budget, set to be released on Feb. 9.

While no one should be surprised that congressional Republicans are not thrilled with Obama's budget proposals -- to put it lightly -- Republican lawmakers are wrong to dismiss Obama's proposals out of hand by forgoing a hearing on the budget from the OMB director, a decades-long tradition.

Firstly, some areas within the budget signal the potential for agreement between Democrats and Republicans. Those include $1 billion to fight the opioid epidemic in the U.S., $10.9 billion in new spending to fight against ISIS and counter Russian President Vladimir Putin's ambitions in Europe, and $19 billion to strengthen the cybersecurity capabilities of information technology systems, CNN reports.

The decision to forgo a hearing on the budget means these proposals will not be explored by Congress in the near future. Even on those areas of agreement, congressional Republicans claim the increase in debt will render any such benefits from the proposals irrelevant.

But the lack of a hearing means the Republicans will not even have a chance to press Donovan on the details of the budget during a televised hearing, which is typically a nice, public way for members of Congress to voice their displeasure on certain pieces of legislation, as The New York Times notes.

The other reason congressional Republicans should have at least held the hearing is that by not doing so, they are breaking with precedent going back four decades and have further alienated Democrats who may be willing to compromise on certain issues.  

While partisanship has been rife and increasingly pronounced in Congress over the course of Obama's presidency, the refusal to listen to any details of a budget proposal is a new and unfavorable development in American politics.  

As Democrats on the State Budget panel noted, a hearing on the president's budget was held during turbulent times in the past, such as in 2004 when poisonous Ricin was discovered in a Senate office mail room, according to CNN.  

On the House Budget panel, Democrats wrote: "The year, with no unusual circumstances to prevent us from doing our work, we have been provided with no reasonable explanation for the decision not to hold a hearing."

The move by Republicans does nothing except widen the partisan differences between the Republicans and the Democrats in the eyes of the electorate. The Republicans could have still rejected every single line of the president's budget, but they could have done it according to precedent, in a way in which Democrats would probably be angry, but not surprised at the result.  

As it stands, congressional Republicans seem to believe that a blanket rejection of anything the president proposes will give them a better chance of electing a Republican president in November.

Click here for the opposing view on this topic.

Sources: The New York Times, CNN / Photo credit: Flickr/Marc Nozell

Should Congress have at least listened to the president's budget proposals before dismissing them?
Yes - 0%
Yes - 0%