WH Chief of Staff Errs on Senate Budget Rules

Feb 12, 2012 1:45pm

As President Obama prepares to unveil his FY2013 budget Monday, White House chief of staff Jack Lew this morning was asked by CNN to defend the Senate’s refusal to pass a budget in more than 1,000 days.

“You can’t pass a budget in the Senate of the United States without 60 votes and you can’t get 60 votes without bipartisan support,” Lew said. “So unless… unless Republicans are willing to work with Democrats in the Senate, [Majority Leader] Harry Reid is not going to be able to get a budget passed.”

That’s not accurate. Budgets only require 51 Senate votes for passage, as Lew — former director of the Office of Management and Budget — surely must know.

White House officials did not dispute that Lew misspoke. When asked about the discrepancy, a White House official said “the chief of staff was clearly referencing the general gridlock in Congress that makes accomplishing even the most basic tasks nearly impossible given the Senate Republicans’ insistence on blocking an up or down vote on nearly every issue.”

The issue highlights the difficulty the White House is having running against an obstructionist Congress when half of that Congress is controlled by Democrats, who obstruct things for their own reasons. In this case, political observers believe Reid is reluctant to have Democrats vote on a large budget full of deficits and tax increases that Republicans can use to run against them.

– Jake Tapper

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