Editor’s Note: This post was written by James Bascom.
Many bills are destined to fail to become law. They can die in committee, get vetoed, or just fail to get enough support to pass in either of the chambers. Bills of all sizes are put through the same rigor and need to accomplish quite a lot in order to get passed. An example of one such bill of large significance that failed to pass in the Obama administration is the 2014 U.S. Federal Budget. This bill was proposed in the 113th Congress in 2013. The purpose of this bill was to fund the federal government for the 2014 fiscal year. However, it failed to get passed in time, and because of that, the U.S. underwent a government shutdown.
The failure of such an important bill was caused by the inability of the House and the Senate to come together and agree on the language of the bill before it could be passed. The House version of the bill (H. Con. Res. 25) and the Senate version of the bill (S. Con. Res. 8) met their ends at different stages of the legislative process. H. Con. Res. 25 wound up being held at desk by unanimous consent on October 16th, 2013, and S. Con. Res. 8 died in the second of two conferences on November 13th, 2013.
The main difference that these two proposals had that could not be agreed up was the language that had to do with repealing sections of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, that existed in H. Con. Res. 25, along with the severe spending cuts it called for. These provisions were ultimately rejected by the Senate. The proposal, at times referred to as the “Ryan Budget” due to Senator Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) sponsorship and involvement in the formation of the proposal, received no Democratic support in the House for these reasons. However, in a House with a Republican-held majority, the bill was passed. The problem arose when it needed to meet Senate approval. After a “vote-a-rama,” the Senate passed their first budget proposal since 2009. This budget proposal was much less overt in any political agenda that it had, with the focus largely being on tax increases, something the House did not agree with. This proposal was passed with no Republican support in the Senate, accomplished due to a Democratic majority. The two chambers were unwilling to yield to each other on which proposal should be passed and this caused the bill to fail.
While the reason for why the bill failed was fairly simple – the two chambers could not agree on the language of the bill – there were several background factors that caused this. For starters, there was the language in H. Con. Res. 25 that would repeal important components of Obamacare; this was a political move that guaranteed zero cooperation from Democrats. The House majority that Republicans enjoyed allowed them to shape their proposal however they saw fit. The Senate majority that Democrats had allowed them to shape their proposal however they wanted. The two bodies had very different agendas, thus preventing cooperation and compromise in a timely manner. All of this came together in the perfect way to prevent the 2014 U.S. Federal Budget from being passed.