(CNN) – Sen. Bob Corker continued Republicans’ pressure on his Democratic colleagues to pass a federal budget, pointing out in his party’s weekly address Saturday that the Democrat-led Senate has not done so in three years.
"Last Sunday marked three years since the Senate has passed a budget," Corker said. "The federal government, which spends more than $3.5 trillion a year - much of it borrowed from outside the United States - has no guideline for how that money is spent."
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But a budget passed by both houses seems unlikely in an election year, especially considering Sen. Harry Reid's February assessment that "we don't need to do it" this year because the debt ceiling deal set federal spending levels.
Reid, the body's Democratic leader, would be the one to schedule a vote on a budget favorable to Democrats, such as the one published by the Obama Administration in February.
That $3.8 trillion plan - which is unpalatable to Republicans - includes a tax increase on the rich and prioritizes jobs and infrastructure over deficit reduction.
Democrats are no fans of House Republicans' plan - a $3.5 billion measure that would replace $55 billion in defense cuts with cuts to other programs, modify funding for Medicare and Medicaid, and slash federal spending below the caps agreed to in last summer's debt ceiling deal.
Some Republicans have characterized the caps as ceilings, rather than an agreed upon level of federal spending.
Both the president’s plan and the House’ Republicans plan – which passed along party lines in March and is closely associated with the chamber’s Budget Committee chair, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin – are seen as election year political documents.
The last budget to pass both houses was a $3.4 trillion plan that survived along a party line vote. That was April 2009.
"Failing to accomplish even the most basic responsibility of government is a total failure of leadership and represents everything the American people hate about Washington," Corker said in his address. "Washington's lack of courage to deal with out-of-control spending is only adding to the sense of uncertainty among investors and potential small businesses owners."
To the government, budgets are policy blueprints. It has continued to function - and spend - without one because the authority to spend happens through appropriations measures.
Since the era of modern budgeting began in 1983, both houses of Congress have not enacted a budget four times, according to the nonpartisan fact check group PolitiFact. In three of the four cases, Republicans controlled both houses, and once, the Democrat-led Senate did not pass a plan.
Last May, the Senate rejected both the president's proposal and a Republican budget passed by the House.
That led to the government being funded by seven short-term measures, many enacted after weeks of foreseeable partisan battle as the government was fast approaching shutdown.