Congress Passes on Cutting Spending
By Thomas Fletcher
Yesterday the Senate followed the House of Representatives in passing the misguided budget deal that congressional Budget Chairs Patty Murray and Paul Ryan recently released. It follows the old playbook of spend now and cut later, the latter of which very rarely happens. Instead of keeping the promises they made to their constituents on spending control, Senators joined their House counterparts in allowing Washington to kick the can even further down the road.
As we highlighted before on the AFP blog, this budget deal has a number of downsides. It establishes a budget authority of over $1 trillion, breaking the caps on discretionary spending established in the Budget Control Act of 2011. It pays for this increase with higher TSA fees and changes to federal employee pensions. In addition, this deal excludes any meaningful changes to entitlements, which are the main drivers of our debt and pose the biggest threat to our nation’s fiscal future. With the majority of the so-called “savings” shuffled to the last two years of the budget window (check out the graph of the spending levels), the cuts in this legislation amount to little more than smoke and mirrors.
The House set the wheels in motion last week, with a vote of 332-94 to pass the bill. In typical Washington fashion, the vote happened the same night the House adjourned for the holidays and left town. Notably, 169 House Republicans, many of whom promised and were elected to cut spending, voted in support of this bloated budget deal.
The Senate followed suit, passing the legislators with a vote of 64-36. Looking closer at the roll call, the vote was largely along party lines. Only nine Republicans joined 53 Democrats and two independents in voting yes on this legislation that now heads to the President’s desk for his signature. Instead of showing the American people that they are serious about cutting spending by abiding the spending caps in the Budget Control Act, elected officials once again failed to show their mettle and rubber stamped higher federal spending levels.
This was a missed opportunity. Passing the Ryan-Murray deal is yet another example of politicians failing to live up to the promises they made to their constituents. The modest spending caps established in the BCA were a victory for fiscal conservatives, and they are integral to reining in the out-of-control spending that has been coming from Washington. The House and Senate vote signifies that neither chamber is serious about cutting the most basic of discretionary spending from the federal budget. Getting rid of these cuts undoes the hard work to that led to them and only undermines future commitments to cut spending.
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