Democrats want to recast themselves as the party of fiscal responsibility, after going on a four-year spending spree that has seen an annual increase in federal spending of over a third. President Obama has conferred a panel to find ways to attack deficits and lower the national debt. One might think that cutting back on spending would be on the table, both in the commission and in Congress.
A Democratic spending fight broke out behind closed doors Thursday, as party leaders successfully pressured four junior lawmakers not to offer an amendment slashing housing and transportation programs by $1.02 billion.
House Appropriations Committee Chairman David R. Obey argued passionately against the amendment and its authors — though not by name — in a speech to the Democratic Caucus in the morning, according to Democratic insiders. He pointed to the importance of the targeted programs and noted that the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development spending bill’s bottom line of $67.4 billion is less than the $68.7 billion proposed by the president, sources said.
“Obey got up there, and he was pissed,” said a senior Democratic aide.
He was quickly backed up by House Democratic Caucus Chairman John Larson (D-Conn.), who urged fellow Democrats to lobby the amendment’s sponsors, Reps. Gary Peters of Michigan, Jim Himes of Connecticut, Peter Welch of Vermont and John Adler of New Jersey not to offer their plan.
Obey’s retiring, so he probably doesn’t care much one way or the other about the impact of spending in this session. However, party leaders such as Larson will have to stick around for a while, or at least want to stick around. Whether voters return Larson and other Democrats in charge remains to be seen, but pitching tantrums over a $1 billion reduction in a bill over $60 billion shows that Democratic leadership still doesn’t understand the anger in the electorate.
What’s remarkable about this is not just the amount of the cut — less than two percent of the overall bill — but where the amendment would have cut spending. The two Democrats targeted programs that Appropriations had funded over the amount requested by the White House. One of the programs involved low-income housing for veterans, however, and that cut was the straw that broke the camel’s back — even though it merely returned the spending level to the White House request.
Clearly, we have to cut a lot more than one billion dollars from the federal budget. And just as clearly, Democrats can’t bring themselves to do it. (h/t: analogkid2112 on Twitter)