In strong remarks on the Senate floor this morning, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell points out that President Obama’s spending “freeze” at current levels will result in a bigger deficit this year than last. Simply to put the budget “on cruise control,” as McConnell puts it, ensures ever increasing spending and unmanageable deficits far into the future. As McConnell says: “So yesterday’s predictions by the CBO should be a wakeup call to anyone who thinks they can hide behind a spending freeze. This is a dire warning that business as usual is a recipe for disaster. If we don’t immediately reduce the size and scope of the federal government, the deficit will be even bigger than last year’s record deficit.”
McConnell is right that we need domestic discretionary spending cuts now. But the main reason—which he doesn’t spell out—that “cruise control” can’t work as a budget strategy is that a bit over half the budget consists of entitlement spending. If there’s no plan to reform entitlements—if entitlement spending is on cruise control—then you don’t have a credible plan to deal with the debt or the deficit.
And that’s why the news from within the House Republican caucus that Majority Leader Eric Cantor may be prevailing over Budget chair Paul Ryan in the battle over whether even to begin to deal with entitlements—Cantor’s against, Ryan’s for—is so worrisome. Leaving entitlements on cruise control is not a serious position for an aspiring governing party—especially one that aspires to reduce the deficit and restore our fiscal solvency. Surely Speaker John Boehner realizes that. Surely the 87 House freshmen do. Will they insist on a serious GOP budget? UPDATE: Eric Cantor's spokesman, Brad Dayspring, responds: “The post is inaccurate, and would direct Weekly Standard readers to Mr. Cantor’s own words, rather than anonymous background sources simply trying to start trouble where there is none.”