Paul Ryan Conference Meeting

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The latest news in the federal budget world was made by the Republican Senate Budget Committee, which announced yesterday that the Senate Budget Committee is delaying consideration of a budget until at least next month.

All I have to say to that: GOOD! Let’s keep it that way

Initially, I was hesitant to admit that.  I worried that the Republican establishment would blame the postponement on conservative demands for spending reductions. But, in reality, the Republican establishment was going to use any excuse to surrender on the budget. 

So, this is where we are:

Republicans, we don’t need your phony budgets.  The budgets are merely a giant façade, used to disguise the Republican establishment’s actual intent to crush conservatives.  A budget resolution never becomes law.  At most, it’s a concurrent resolution that acts as nothing more than a set of congressional rules – rules that members are permitted to break in the blink of an eye.

As we’ve seen in the past, Republicans parade around their balanced budgets.  Those budgets include tax reform, the repeal of Obamacare, welfare spending cuts, and a balanced budget – a great conservative agenda!  In reality, however, those budgets have been used as shiny objects to deceive the American public.

Consider the Republican budget last year that was chock full of conservative promises.  To begin, Republicans promised to uphold the spending cuts achieved in the Budget Control Act (BCA), the only conservative victory Republicans won since retaking Congress in 2011; a bill that reduced spending by $2.1 trillion.  In May 2015, Republicans passed a budget with the promise to hold strong on the spending limits established in the BCA; particularly for fiscal year 2016.

Those promises never materialized. Less than seven months later, those same Republicans turned around and increased spending for 2016 by $50 billion in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015

While the Republican budget was supposed to preserve the BCA spending levels for 2016, that was not the plan for 2017.  Instead, the Republican budget promised to cut spending even further.  Whereas the BCA set a cap of $1.04 trillion in spending for 2017, the Republican budget demanded $1.013 trillion – a $27 billion dollar cut. 

What did the Republicans deliver?  Not only did they completely capitulate on the budget of $1.013 trillion for 2017, but they surrendered on the BCA levels too!  In December 2015, they made an agreement with Obama to increase the 2017 statutory cap levels to $1.07 trillion. In other words, the Republican balanced budget that promised us $27 billion in cuts for 2017 instead gave us $57 billion in spending increases relative to the budget ($30 billion more relative to BCA levels).

Next, lets talk about that Republican balanced budget.  The Republican establishment sold the American people a budget that was supposed to balance in nine years. But, as we know, there are two ways to balance: one includes spending, the other taxes. 

In all irony, “small government” Republicans used taxes to balance their budget – nearly $2 trillion in bogus money coming into the government.  How?  First, the Republican budget promised to repeal Obamacare. But in reality, the legislation only repealed the mandates. It did NOT repeal the $1 trillion in Obamacare taxes. Republicans still wanted the money from taxes imposed by Obamacare to spend on other priorities. 

Second, Republicans refused to accept nearly $700 billion that would stop coming into the government when Congress reauthorized the “tax extenders,” bill. The tax extenders are approximately 70 individual tax breaks Congress has routinely reauthorized since the 1980s.  Congress knew they were going to be renewed, but refused to account for those tax cuts in their budgets.  Of course, seven months after Republicans passed the budget, the tax extenders bill passed Congress. The math behind a “balanced” budget was really all a trick of timing.

Why would Republicans refuse to accept lower taxes, a conservative may ask?  Without increased money coming in, the Republican budget resolution NEVER balances.  There was never any confusion about this; a fact widely understood among Republicans.  There was only one deceptive reason to do so - Republican simply tried to sell you Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham: act conservative without being conservative.

When it comes to repealing Obamacare, we all know it was a giant Republican scheme.  Last year’s budget contained a process known as “reconciliation.”  Reconciliation is an expedited legislative process that makes it easier to change law.  In this case, the budget adopted it specifically with the intent to repeal Obamacare.  After a few theatrical attempts to repeal President Obama’s signature health care law, Republicans suddenly shifted course and instead pitched the idea that instead of Obamacare, reconciliation should be used to repeal funding for Planned Parenthood.  Eventually, everyone realized the Republicans never intended to take this battle to Obama either and the issue died.

I anticipate some conservatives will challenge this article, arguing that the budget provides an opportunity for a budget debate.  Sure, there is a long 24 hours where the Senate considers hundreds of amendments – a procedure known as Vote-a-Rama. Just this once, I’m inclined to agree with Harry Reid when he described a long night of budget votes, “No one’s election is going to be determined by what is taking place here tonight – no election.” 

Quite frankly, Republicans, I do not need another budget full of gimmicks, fake revenues, dishonest spending cuts, and false promises of Obamacare repeal; another giant façade for you to hide behind.  The budget is nonbinding law, and if you want to make a difference, you’ll need to change binding law – just as you did when you increased spending in the Bipartisan Budget Act – and then actually abide by it.

Save us the trouble, and skip the budget.  The American people are more interested in what you will substantively deliver to the voters.

Ideas Factory with John Gray

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