Yesterday, the newest White House chief of staff, Jack Lew, took to the Sunday talk shows to get a head start on promoting President Barack Obama’s FY2013 budget, which is set to be released today. But just as he was getting warmed up, Lew ran smack into a brick wall when he was forced to defend the Democrat-controlled Senate’s failure to pass a budget in the last 1,019 days.
“You can’t pass a budget in the Senate of the United States without 60 votes, and you can’t get 60 votes without bipartisan support,” Lew said on CNN’s State of the Union. “So unless… unless Republicans are willing to work with Democrats in the Senate, [Majority Leader] Harry Reid is not going to be able to get a budget passed.” Lew repeated the claim in a slightly different form on NBC’s Meet the Press, saying “One of the things about the United States Senate that I think the American people have realized is that it takes 60, not 50, votes to pass something.”
The trouble is, Lew is absolutely wrong. As ABC’s Jake Tapper points out, budgets only require 51 Senate votes for passage. The Washington Post‘s “Fact Checker” Glenn Kessler weighed in as well, saying that Lew, who is a two-time budget director, “really should know better.” When Tapper called the White House on the error, he saysthat they didn’t deny that Lew was wrong and instead spun back to blaming “general gridlock in Congress that makes accomplishing even the most basic tasks nearly impossible.”