Sen. Chuck Grassley, the top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, accused Democrats on Wednesday of running a Senate that’s working a half-time schedule, and said this light work schedule is one reason why the Senate is failing to provide an adequate check on federal spending.
Grassley, R-Iowa, said that under the Democrats’ leadership last year, the Senate failed to pass a budget or do any of the work needed to pass any of the 12 annual spending bills. Instead, he said leaders presented senators with a $1.7 trillion omnibus bill at the last minute, a move Republicans say piled on the debt and didn’t give Congress any chance to review and manage federal programs.
“Things need to change,” Grassley said. He added that the Senate’s light work schedule is a major reason why lawmakers are unable to manage federal spending.
“Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised, because when the Senate goes into session at 3 o’clock on Monday and has one vote, hardly any business, and then you work all day Tuesday and all day Wednesday and adjourn at 1:45 pm on Thursday, you can’t get a lot of session work done,” he said in a Senate Budget Committee hearing.
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“Compare to when I came to the United States Senate,” he added. “Started at no later than noon on Monday, debated on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, when home Friday at 4 pm.”
“So, I think there needs to be some re-analysis of… the amount of time that we’re in session,” Grassley said.
Grassley leveled that charge at a hearing aimed at discussing how the climate crisis could put new pressure on the federal budget. The new chairman of the committee, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., has warned about the looming climate crisis for years, and said his committee needs to consider how environmental emergencies might drive new spending.
Grassley agreed that this is a topic to be considered, but said the broader issue of overspending must be a major part of the committee’s work and said Democrats in recent years have ignored the growing national debt.
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“Republicans and Democrats have to share this blame,” Grassley said. “For decades, Congress turned a blind eye as our nation walked toward a fiscal cliff. But Democrats turned that walk into a sprint.”
“In March 2021, Democrats took advantage of an emergency situation to pass a $2 trillion partisan spending bill, even as our economy showed strong signs of recovery. Then as inflation soared to a 40-year high, they doubled down, spending trillions more on their liberal wishlists,” he said.
Grassley also dinged Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who chaired the Budget Committee in the last Congress when the Senate failed to pass a budget or any individual federal spending bills.
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Grassley noted that the Congressional Budget Office was warning last year that federal debt owned by the public will reach 110% of U.S. gross domestic product by 2032, and 185% by 2052, while annual budget deficits will soon hit $2 trillion.
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“Mr. Chairman, your immediate predecessor refused to bring in CBO to discuss the overall budget outlook,” Grassley said, referring to Sanders. “This was a mistake. So I urge under your leadership to hold a hearing with CBO on the latest outlook. Nobody benefits from just burying our heads in the sand.”
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