Congress needs to drive down federal spending toward a balanced budget, including through entitlement reforms, while maintaining a strong national defense and without raising taxes. Neither the House of Representatives nor the Senate achieved that objective when they adopted their respective versions of the government budget for fiscal year 2014 (FY ’14), which begins only four months from now, on October 1, 2013. For this year, time is up for the broken budget process. Congress must press ahead and cut the amount of taxpayers’ money it appropriates for the bureaucracies to spend.

The House of Representatives correctly identified the key problem when it considered the House-proposed budget for FY ’14 (H. Con. Res. 25). As the House Budget Committee said in its report (H. Rept. 113-17) on the budget:

Without reform, entitlement programs will overwhelm all other items in the federal budget. And our national debt will overwhelm our economy.

The budget the House passed on March 21, 2013, by a vote of 221 to 207 had the salutary feature of matching federal spending to federal revenues in 10 years—achieving a balanced budget in a decade—but at too high a level of spending and taxation.

The Senate managed to do much worse when it considered the Senate-proposed budget for FY ’14 (S. Con. Res. 8). The Senate Budget Committee Chairman made clear in her letter (S. Prt. 113-12) of March 13, 2013, that she sought with the proposed budget to obtain “new revenue”—in plain English, higher taxes. The Senate budget, passed by a vote of 50 to 49 on March 23, 2013, had even higher levels of spending and taxation than the House version, dodged the problem of entitlement costs, and never balanced.

With only four months left before FY ’14 starts, there is no time left to overturn the too-costly work of both the House and the Senate and instead get to a common budget that cuts the cost, scope, and size of the federal government. Moreover, reaching a common budget resolution would trigger a special legislative process known as “reconciliation,” which provides for reconciling annual spending bills with the budget resolution. In that reconciliation process, it becomes much easier for liberals in Congress to raise taxes and put more debt on the backs of Americans.

Under the regular procedures of the Senate, it takes the votes of 60 Senators to move legislation swiftly through that body. But under the special reconciliation procedures, it takes the votes of only 51 Senators to move legislation swiftly through the Senate. It makes little sense to go to a House-Senate conference on the concurrent budget resolution—unless you want to make it easier to get tax hikes and debt increases through the Senate.

The hope earlier in the year for a sound federal budget has long since evaporated. Now, all a common budget resolution would really accomplish is to make it easier for liberals to hike taxes and the federal debt limit.

America cherishes liberty for people and limits for government. What Americans need from their government is less—less spending, less taxation, and less debt. Under the current circumstances, going to a House–Senate conference on a concurrent budget resolution is the first step on the path that leads directly to more spending, higher taxes, and larger debt. Congress should stay off that dangerous path and instead take up the appropriations bills—the real money bills in Congress—and start slashing the cost of government.