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Republicans decline to hear president's budget

In an unprecedented move, the $4.1 trillion budget will not receive even a formal hearing from the Republican controlled House and Senate budget committees.
President Barack Obama pauses while speaking at an event in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 4, 2016. (Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)
President Barack Obama pauses while speaking at an event in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 4, 2016.

President Obama's $4.1 trillion budget for the government was formally submitted to Congress today, however, in an unprecedented move, it will not receive so much as a formal hearing from the Republican controlled House and Senate budget committees.

Going back to the 1970s, it has been customary for the Office of Management and Budget Director or another high level administration official to present the president's entire budget in a hearing before Congress. Last week, the chairmen of the House and Senate budget committees released a joint statement saying this year, that would not be the case.

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"Rather than spend time on a proposal that, if anything like this administration's previous budgets, will double down on the same failed policies that have led to the worst economic recovery in modern times, Congress should continue our work on building a budget that balances and that will foster a healthy economy," said House Budget Chairman Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga.

Price's counterpart in the Senate, Senator Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., added, "Instead of hearing from an administration unconcerned with our $19 trillion in debt, we should focus on how to reform America's broken budget process and restore the trust of hardworking taxpayers."

The refusal to allow a hearing has incensed Democrats who see it as a serious breach of decorum.

House Budget Committee Ranking Member Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., fired off an angry letter to Price, saying he was "appalled" by the decision and that, "This choice is more than just a rejection of the House Budget Committee's longstanding, bipartisan tradition; it is disrespectful to the Committee members, the public and the president."

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., went a step further saying the GOP is gripped by "corrosive radicalism" and that the "Republican Chairmen's contemptuous attitude is unworthy of the U.S. Congress and the American people."

So far Republicans have not wavered.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis.,, who once chaired the Budget Committee himself, has repeatedly said it is his practice to delegate the responsibilities of congressional committees to the committee chairmen themselves, which he sees as a cornerstone of his "bottom up" approach to the speakership.

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Nevertheless, the slight of the OMB Director could prove telling, as Congress might be on an even more contentious path to passing a needed bipartisan budget by the end of the fiscal year in September.

Currently, there's a battle going on within the House Republican Conference about whether or not Republicans should fight for a lower overall budget number, despite voting last year for top line figure agreed to by then Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and President Obama. The in-fighting could lead to House Republicans not passing a budget for the first time since they reclaimed the Majority in 2010.

Hill observers say any talk of a government shutdown is premature right now but that the snub of the president's budget could be the opening shot in a long contentious fight over how to fund the government ahead of the presidential election in November.

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