For all the talk about President Obama coming up short when reaching out to congressional Republicans, we're occasionally reminded who's ultimately to blame for the partisan dysfunction in the nation's capital.
Today, for example, the White House will unveil its final budget blueprint to Congress, and while the public at large probably won't find this particularly noteworthy, these documents are routinely pretty interesting. Obama's latest budget plan, for example, includes all kinds of innovative ideas on infrastructure, opioid abuse, and even a "moonshot" on cancer research.
They're the kind of ideas that would be the start of an important budget debate with Congress. Except, as the New York Times reports, Republican lawmakers have announced they're not even willing to have this conversation: they don't know what's in the administration's budget plan, and they don't care
Breaking with a 41-year-old tradition, the Republican chairmen of the House and Senate budget committees announced that they would not even give the president's budget director, Shaun Donovan, the usual hearings in their panels this week.
G. William Hoagland, who was the Republican staff director at the Senate Budget Committee for much of the 1980s and 1990s, and is senior vice president of the Bipartisan Policy Center, said he could not recall a year since the modern budget process took effect in the 1970s when a president's budget director was not invited to testify before the budget committees.
Hoagland told the Times, "While the last budget of an outgoing president is usually aspirational, and sets a theme for what he or she hopes will be followed up by his or her successor, it nonetheless should be reviewed by the Congress."
And ordinarily, it would be. For decades, once a White House unveils a federal budget plan, the House and Senate Budget Committee schedule hearings with the president's budget director. It's just how the process has worked, regardless of which party has power at the time. In plenty of instances, these hearings have offered lawmakers a chance to press administration officials on the parts of the budget they disagree with.
But this year, GOP committee chairmen have decided not to bother. They just don't care.