Democrats' Budgetary Sleight of Hand
11:30 AM, Mar 26, 2009 • By BRIAN FAUGHNAN
Yesterday, Congressman Paul Ryan, the senior Republican on the House Budget Committee, laid out the problems with the House Democrats' budget resolution:
Simply put, President Obama has promised so much that it's impossible to deliver it all. What's worse, it's impossible to even come close to delivering it all.
Obama has promised to reduce the federal deficit, but the CBO says that his 10-year budget plan increases the debt by more than $9 trillion. He's also promised health care reform, but his plan doesn't even pay for that. If he intends to provide tax cuts, that will increase the deficit further. And if Obama intends to rescue the nation's banking system, it will cost more money (his budget resolution does not provide for any more spending).
Further, since the deficit balloons so dramatically in the second half of Obama's 10-year budget plan, the House and Senate budget resolutions ignore the last 5 years. (Freshman senator Mark Begich of Alaska says that's a good thing, because "it's harder to predict what happens" that far down the road, anyway.)
But for political opportunism, it's tough to beat the transparent move by Budget Committee chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND) to try to wash his hands of Obamacare and cap-and-trade. Conrad has loudly and proudly proclaimed that his budget provides no special protection for those two presidential priorities; he would force them to face filibusters, rather than be included in the reconciliation process. Yet the resolution advanced in the House does include them in reconciliation -- and House Republicans hear that Democratic leaders have already decided that the House position will ultimately be adopted.
Why is this so egregious? Because the House does not have a filibuster, or a rule that protects reconciliation bills from a filibuster. Those rules apply in the Senate alone. So when the Senate draws up the portion of the budget resolution that affects only itself, they'll be politically 'brave,' and stand up to Obama on his biggest priorities. But they'll ultimately cave to the House, and grease the skids for another massive expansion of government. Some of the Senate's red-state Democrats will undoubtedly lament the fact that the conferees rejected the Senate language, but vote for it anyway. Then people like Kent Conrad, Ben Nelson, and Blanche Lincoln will then try to convince their local press to give them political cover, rather than call them out for their opportunism.
An honest budget would be much simpler, but there's little chance it would pass either the House or the Senate.