The Senate's $3.7 Trillion, Feel-Good, Totally Meaningless 5 a.m. Budget

Photograph by Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg

Saturday at 5 a.m. the Senate did something it hasn’t done in four years: It passed a budget. Narrowly. By a 50-49 vote, Democrats advanced a $3.7 trillion budget that includes $100 billion in new stimulus funding, raised $975 billion in new tax revenue, and doesn’t balance (as the Republican House version does).

You know what? It doesn’t matter. The Senate budget has less chance of becoming law than plucky 15th-seeded Florida Gulf Coast University has of winning the NCAA men’s basketball championship.

Like FGC’s advance, the mere fact that the budget passed is a surprising, feel-good story of something unlikely happening against long odds. After years of damaging brinkmanship with the government’s funding being decided in frantic, 11th-hour deals by hostile party leaders, Congress has returned to what’s known as regular order. The next step in the process—having House and Senate negotiators reconcile the competing versions of the budget and pass it along to the president—isn’t going to happen for reasons my colleague Brendan Greeley and I laid out in last week’s issue of Bloomberg Businessweek.

So rather than rehash that tale of futility, I’m going to join every U.S. senator and go take a nap.

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