Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. (A, 92%) has been stealing the Senate’s thunder of late, coming out in opposition to the budget proposal that is supposed to lay the groundwork for a quick repeal of Obamacare.
Or is Sen. Paul crazy like a fox by pointing out that the rush to repeal Obamacare need not require an abandonment of basic fiscal restraint?
The line coming from the GOP leadership in Congress is that the budget resolution that sets the framework for repealing Obamacare has to move quickly. There’s no time for monkeying around with current spending levels in this budget, they say, because it would cause unneeded distractions and controversies over what spending to cut and where. The battle to address the federal government’s massive spending and unsustainable deficit trajectory will happen later this spring, in the budget for fiscal year 2018.
Agree or disagree with Paul’s approach, he’s got some real points here.
(n.b., Remember that the budget Congress is working with is actually from last year, since they never completed the appropriations process for fiscal year 2017. This gives them the chance to pass a budget resolution for the rest of the fiscal year, through October 2017, and then start over on schedule with a second budget for FY 2018 this spring.)
But what Sen. Paul points out is that maintaining the current spending trajectory, even in a budget plan that sets up repealing Obamacare, means Republicans voted for a framework that increases the national debt by more than $9 trillion over the next 10 years. All while simultaneously advancing an Obamacare repeal plan that neither fully repeals the law right away nor proposes its replacement.
Agree or disagree with Paul’s approach, he’s got some real points here. And then he delivers the coup de grace to the leadership’s arguments by wrangling a vote on a substitute budget that actually balances.
Sen. Paul’s alternative proposal would have balanced the budget by 2024 while still setting the stage for Obamacare’s repeal. Most importantly, it didn’t lay out a specific blueprint for how the budget cuts would be realized to achieve that goal, instead setting target numbers for the individual committees in Congress to decide what to cut and how.
In other words, he did what leadership insisted it couldn’t do because there was no time. And yet only 13 Republicans joined Sen. Paul in his amendment to accomplish both Obamacare repeal and budget sanity.
The Republican deal-with-the-debt-later tactic would be more understandable if there were any reasonable standard of trust that conservatives could deal with. But after years under Obama — of Republicans promising that they would fight for balanced budgets “later” — the trust that later will ever come has been eroded.
And with Sen. Paul proving how easy a basic balanced budget proposal is procedurally, there’s simply no excuse to let there be any separation between balanced budgets and Obamacare repeal.
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Josh Withrow is an Associate Editor for Conservative Review and Director of Public Policy at Free the People. You can follow him on Twitter at @jgwithrow.