“Rarely has Conrad been so firmly in agreement with the likes of Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi”

So says the National Review, wondering what happened to “the one Democrat who was reasonable on budget issues.”

When Conrad announced earlier this year his decision not to seek another term in 2012, he expressed hope that — freed of the time and political constraints of a reelection campaign — he would be able to play a leading role in the effort to confront what he called “the central threat facing the country, other than a terrorist threat” — the debt. As a member of the Bowles-Simpson commission on deficit reduction as well as the ongoing “Gang of Six” bipartisan negotiations in the Senate, Conrad appeared to be doing just that. …

But the Kent Conrad that fiscal conservatives have come to quietly admire (and liberals vocally despise) has been missing in action of late. In reaction to House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan’s 2012 budget proposal — praised as a “serious, honest, straightforward approach to addressing our nation’s enormous fiscal challenges” by the co-chairs of the Bowles-Simpson commission — the ostensibly iconoclastic Conrad issued a statement of pure partisan boilerplate. “Representative Ryan’s proposal is partisan and ideological,” Conrad said. “He provides dramatic tax cuts for the wealthiest, financed by draconian reductions in Medicare and Medicaid. His proposals are unreasonable and unsustainable.” Rarely has Conrad been so firmly in agreement with the likes of Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi. An incredulous Roger Hickey, co-director of the hyper-liberal Campaign for America’s future, exclaimed on Huffington Post: “Yes, Kent Conrad! . . . I never thought I’d have the opportunity to thank Kent Conrad for helping to unify his fellow Democrats against Republican excess.” …

For someone who claims to be so concerned about the deficit, Conrad has been conspicuously absent from the public debate in recent weeks (notwithstanding his ridicule of Ryan’s plan). Another Gang of Six member, Sen. Mark Warner (D., Va.), seems to have emerged as the new face of Democratic seriousness regarding the debt and deficit, though Warner too has been highly derisive of the Republican budget, describing it as “taking basically a meat ax to those programs that protect the most vulnerable in our country.”

Per the article, the 1974 Budget Act requires that both the House and the Senate submit a budget resolution by April 1st and then pass that resolution by April 15th. Not only did Kent Conrad’s budget committee in the Senate fail to produce such a budget this year, they failed to do it last year as well.

The Senate Budget Committee, under the “leadership” of Conrad (if you can call Conrad’s petty sniping “leadership”), hasn’t produced a budget since FY2010 way back in 2009.

Conrad has, admittedly, always been more moderate than his fellow Democrats on budget matters. At least in his words if not as often in his actions. Conrad has been saying over and over again that politicians need to be willing to sacrifice their political careers for the sake of real progress toward eliminating the budget deficit. He said as much back in November, and he repeated that comment recently to the Grand Forks Herald editorial board.

And yet, after announcing the impending end of his own political career, Conrad has even more dissembling and partisan on budget talks than he was previously.

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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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