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Washington Week

April 18, 2010 - 6:00pm

Tax day has come and gone and millions of Americans filed their tax returns, thereby complying with the April 15 annual deadline. However, deadlines seem to mean very little to the Democratic leadership in Congress. You see, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is seriously considering not passing a budget resolution this year.

The budget resolution does not have the force of law and thus isn't signed by the president, yet it sets boundaries for Congress when it comes to federal government spending. I am guessing that many Americans would agree that Congress definitely needs some boundaries these days when it comes to spending.

The decision on whether or not to pass a budget could be made as early as later this week in the House of Representatives. To help sway this decision, the Concord Coalition, a non-partisan organization advocating responsible fiscal policy, issued a statement Friday urging Congress to pass a budget resolution.

If the House decides not to pass an annual budget resolution, the chances of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid reporting a budget resolution and putting the Senate through the pain of 50 hours of debate and potentially hundreds of amendments would meet definite opposition by many of those senators facing reelection this November.

However, under the Budget Act of 1974, if the Senate budget committee fails to report a budget resolution, any senator can introduce his/her own resolution. That resolution would be granted the privileges and the procedures allowed under the Budget Act. The ability for the GOP to craft its own budget, be afforded the fast-track customs of the debate, and choreograph the theme of the debate, could cause the Democrats in Congress to think twice about abandoning their responsibility to pass a budget resolution.

Meanwhile, while this decision to pass an annual budget resolution will be debated behind closed doors in various meetings, the Senate chamber will be considering and debating up to five judicial and executive office nominations . The House chamber will debate a bill granting the District of Columbia a voting member in Congress. Stay tuned for more on this decision. To pass a budget or not to pass a budget -- that is the question.

Elizabeth B. Letchworth is a retired, four-times-elected United States Senate secretary for the Majority and Minority. She is the founder of

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