Byron York goes into the rulebook to see how Democrats gave themselves no room in dealing with the tax cut issue in this lame duck session.
To pass a measure by reconciliation, the Senate must pass a budget that contains what are called reconciliation instructions. But this year, as they faced an angry electorate and grim prospects in the midterm elections, the Democratic leadership made the specific decision not to pass a budget. Revealing their spending priorities to voters already unhappy with out-of-control federal expenditures was just too risky, so Sen. Harry Reid and party leaders punted, even though passing a budget is one of Congress' core constitutional responsibilities.
With no budget, there could be no reconciliation. And no possibility of using reconciliation to extend the Bush tax cuts -- which were originally passed with bipartisan support -- on the Democrats' terms. Shirking your constitutional responsibilities can have consequences.