Senate Republicans introduce bill to eliminate budget gimmicks

posted at 1:25 pm on October 5, 2011 by Tina Korbe

If only we could all budget our money the way Uncle Sam does. We could justify routine purchases as “emergency” spending. (Five dollars for a caffeine fix at Starbucks? But it’s an emergency!) We could pretend we saved money by not buying something we never planned to buy in the first place — and then spend that money elsewhere. (You always planned to pay college tuition for your kids even after they graduated university, right? Well, don’t — save the money and buy a new car instead!). We could delay payment by ten years for major purchases and pretend we’ll never have to pay for them. (What washer and dryer? You don’t owe money for either in this 10-year enforceable window — so don’t budget for ‘em at all.)

But, for some strange reason, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) and Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) think it should be the other way around: They think Uncle Sam should start budgeting a little more like we do. That’s why, today, they introduced the Honest Budget Act, a bill to eliminate the most outrageous gimmicks Congress uses to justify increased spending.

“The American people are very unhappy with Washington and they have a right to be,” Sessions said this morning on a conference call. “They believe that we’re not honest about our numbers, that we’re manipulating spending and that we’re driving up the debt to further our own agendas. [So,] we’ve examined the budget process over the last decade or more [and] we’ve identified nine distinct problems that tend to recur that represent manipulation of the truth when we deal with the public about the budget.”

Sessions and Snowe identified them — and then sought to eliminate them. Among other things, the Honest Budget Act does the following:

  • Requires both houses of Congress to adopt a binding budget resolution or face a 60-vote threshold to move any spending bills through Congress (in other words, under the HBA, no budget — in all probability — equals no appropriations);
  • Makes it more difficult to label routine expenditures “emergency spending”;
  • Eliminates phony rescissions (Congress can no longer use savings from falsely projected spending to justify actual increases in spending);
  • Makes real the fake federal pay freeze; and
  • Disallows timing shifts, which bill drafters use to make a bill appear deficit-neutral within a certain time frame.

“This is a good step,” Sessions said. “We can accomplish two things: We can restore more public confidence in the numbers that come out of the budget process and we can save money at the same time.”

Actually save money. Consider: Since 2005, budget gimmicks have enabled more than $350 billion worth of additional deficit spending.

Sessions said he and Snowe expect to receive broad and bipartisan support for their bill.

“I’ve had Democrats tell me they want budget reform,” Sessions said. “I find it more clearly advocated by new members on both sides of the aisle.”

Seriously: Who won’t support this bill? Are some senators actually willing to stand up and say, “We’re all for tricking the American people as long as we’re not caught”? Who am I kidding? Of course some are. Look for this bill to be buried by Harry Reid — but to nevertheless drive a meaningful discussion of budget reform. And if it does come up for a vote, it’ll be nice to have it blatantly on record that some senators actually stand for disingenuous practices.


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Seriously: Who won’t support this bill? Are some senators actually willing to stand up and say, “We’re all for tricking the American people as long as we’re not caught”?

Caveat emptor.

BobMbx on October 5, 2011 at 1:28 PM

Good for them, but me thinks it will doa! The dc bunch needs all the money they can suck off of the taxpayers however they manage to get it.
L

letget on October 5, 2011 at 1:31 PM

Why do they go to all the effort to put forward all of these various procedural rules over and over again, when they could save a lot of time, effort, and money by just putting together a realistic budget and presenting that?

Yes, it is rhetorical.

Vashta.Nerada on October 5, 2011 at 1:32 PM

Seriously: Who won’t support this bill?

Some democrats might say they’re supportive but in reality the radical left owns them and they’ll vote no.

The democrat party must spend to stay alive. It’s all they stand for. It’s the only way anyone will vote for them.

darwin on October 5, 2011 at 1:32 PM

Tina: If that first requires a single budget, and not smaller department-level budgets, I am not for this.

Scott H on October 5, 2011 at 1:32 PM

I’m still waiting for a bill that requires all bills to be read aloud in their entirety before debate or a vote can begin.

fossten on October 5, 2011 at 1:33 PM

HEARTLESS!!!

Children will starve, Education will be gutted, Health will suffer, bridges will collapse, Grandparents will be pushed off cliffs, the Military will not have bullets, etc.

The GOP bill is HEARTLESS!!!!!

PappyD61 on October 5, 2011 at 1:35 PM

Look for this bill to be buried by Harry Reid

What bill?
-reid

cmsinaz on October 5, 2011 at 1:36 PM

IMHO Olympia Snowe cannot be trusted. She has voted with the dems on major issues like health care and I find it hard to believe that this isn’t something she is doing to try to get re-elected when the time comes.
She is the Hester Pryne of the republican party. Along with Susan Collins.

milwife88 on October 5, 2011 at 1:37 PM

The best way to get things under control is to make all senators and representatives serve only one term. Lobbyists will have no way other than outright bribery to buy them, and, they’ll know they have this one shot in life to do something worthwhile before they go back home to live next to their neighbors. Permanently.

trigon on October 5, 2011 at 1:37 PM

milwife88 on October 5, 2011 at 1:37 PM

VERY good point…it’s election time…

cmsinaz on October 5, 2011 at 1:39 PM

I think they are Dreaming.

No Senator or US Rep wants to loose the ability to buy votes with our money.

Looks good on paper but it is about as likely as Congress voting for say…
1. Term Limits
2. Changes to their Pensions
3. Changes to their Health Care
4. Less time off

I feel like Sessions and Snow are Charlie Brown’s Teacher:
WAAA WAAA WAA WAA WA!

It’s only about the Power and they’re not giving it up.

SayNo2-O on October 5, 2011 at 1:40 PM

Seriously: Who won’t support this bill?

Harry Reid will BURY it.

GarandFan on October 5, 2011 at 1:44 PM

I’m still waiting for a bill that requires all bills to be read aloud in their entirety before debate or a vote can begin.

fossten on October 5, 2011 at 1:33 PM

I’m still waiting for the one that requires them to cite constitutional authority for the legislation.

Kafir on October 5, 2011 at 1:46 PM

We could pretend we saved money by not buying something we never planned to buy in the first place — and then spend that money elsewhere.

This is the one that I find really offensive. This base-line budgeting is a fraud.

I applied the methodology of base-line budgeting to the Syrian uprising to prove that Bashir Assad is really a great humanitarian. Here’s how.

1. A month or so ago Secty. of State Hillary Clinton criticized Assad because his forces, as at that date, had killed around 2000 people in the disturbances there.

2. However, last March Assad told his army that if they killed 21 people or less per day he could avoid overpowering international criticism.

3. So, I did the math. On that day, by multiplying the number of days between the Assad comment and Hillary’s criticism times 21, the number of dead would have exceeded 3600.

Thus, by employing the base-line budgeting approach, Assad actually SAVED 1600 lives. He should be getting kudos as a great humanitarian, rather than criticized…right?

What a fraud!

Blaise on October 5, 2011 at 1:46 PM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-mAUQYn6DjM

Language Warning.

Ben Hur on October 5, 2011 at 1:48 PM

Sounds like another budget gimick to me.

Lily on October 5, 2011 at 1:56 PM

Some folks have been saying, the teaparty is over.

Here is stark evidence that it’s influence is still growing. Even if the bill goes nowhere, the fact that these things are even being discussed, is a huge step forward.

The teaparty isn’t over, it’s just getting started. 2012 will see, not just another historic defeat for the democrats, but the continued success to purge RINOs and other assorted progressives from the GOP.

Rebar on October 5, 2011 at 1:59 PM

Eliminate baseline budgeting.

jbtripp on October 5, 2011 at 2:00 PM

Cute, but WHY are they leaving the PERMANENT annual 8% increase in place?

This increase was done to allow spending to forever grow government without taking even one vote.

Freddy on October 5, 2011 at 2:00 PM

If it really brings honesty to the federal budget, then there has to be a way to make the leaders of both houses bring it to a vote. And I hope it does come to a vote! Because, whether it passes or fails, the the American people know who voted against it and plaster that info across all media outlets so we know who has come out of the fiscal fraud closet and is proud of it.

looking4statesmen on October 5, 2011 at 2:01 PM

Reid will never allow either debate or a vote on the bill so it is moot.

JIMV on October 5, 2011 at 2:09 PM

I will be happier when they introduce this in 2013. But I have a feeling that a lot of the Republicans are actually against it, but have no problem doing this now when they know the Dems will shoot it down.

jeffn21 on October 5, 2011 at 2:11 PM

Actually save money. Consider: Since 2005, budget gimmicks have enabled more than $350 billion worth of additional deficit spending.

Since 2005, the government has spent about $18,000 billion. If “budget gimmicks” are only responsible for 1.9% of that amount, then the real gimmick here is the notion that this is a meaningful step toward solving the problem.

Fabozz on October 5, 2011 at 2:17 PM

It’s interesting and all – and yet, with Snowe’s name on it, the warning bells are clanging away.

Once the opportunistic value of this is gone, so will the impetus to abide by it be.

Pass this, fine – *and* send Snowe and the rest of her ilk packing, to be replaced by representatives who actually *believe* in and will abide by this kind of thing.

Midas on October 5, 2011 at 2:23 PM

We need zero-based budgeting, not baked-in-the-cake annual spending increases.

sandspur on October 5, 2011 at 2:24 PM

Budget gimmicks – such as earmarks?

tomg51 on October 5, 2011 at 2:26 PM

Is Olympia Snowe up for re-election? That’d be the only reason she would co-sponsor something like this.

44Magnum on October 5, 2011 at 2:31 PM

I say it’s a step in the right direction. But it could prove dangerous if they passed something like this, then assumed that all spending/budgeting problems are fixed.

It’s called “creative accounting” for a reason – a law is passed, then we creatively find a way around the law to maintain the status quo.

mdenis39 on October 5, 2011 at 2:31 PM

Fabozz on October 5, 2011 at 2:17 PM

A small step but every journey starts with the first step. Hopefully the next step will be an end to baseline budgeting as mentioned above.

brtex on October 5, 2011 at 2:31 PM

Passing this bill is not the hard part at all.

What’s to stop Congress from simply ignoring it and doing things the same old way they always have?

This bunch always thinks laws are just for the little people.(and Republicans)

VelvetElvis on October 5, 2011 at 2:38 PM

While they are at it…

… why not a bill that forces them to live under all the laws that they pass for us, i.e. Obowmacare.

Just sayin’…

Seven Percent Solution on October 5, 2011 at 2:58 PM

But, for some strange reason, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) and Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) think it should be the other way around: They think Uncle Sam should start budgeting a little more like we do.

Do you not remember that Sen. Snowe is the ONLY Republican member of congress responsible for ObamaCare?

If she told me it was snowing in the middle of a monsoon I would put more sunscreen on!

SayNo2-O on October 5, 2011 at 3:03 PM

They could always Deem it passed and follow it while budgeting even if they can’t get a vote.

Heh.

Lily on October 5, 2011 at 3:07 PM

Thus, by employing the base-line budgeting approach, Assad actually SAVED 1600 lives. He should be getting kudos as a great humanitarian, rather than criticized…right?

What a fraud!

Blaise on October 5, 2011 at 1:46 PM

Agreed: The “baseline funding” routine is a fraud and needs to be eliminated. A simple chart could make this fraud very clear, and it would be a great talking point for Republican presidential candidates.

GaltBlvnAtty on October 5, 2011 at 3:29 PM

Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine)

Surely you jest. Snowe hasn’t done anything that even looked Republican.

katablog.com on October 5, 2011 at 4:27 PM

This would be a great start. It would be great to have a budget with these characteristics. It would show continuity with the current budget

We need a second budget which also includes increases of entitlement liabilities. To go along with the second budget, we need a second balance sheet which includes entitlement liabilities as well as the “small” stuff currently $14×10^12.

burt on October 5, 2011 at 4:47 PM

While they are at it…

… why not a bill that forces them to live under all the laws that they pass for us, i.e. Obowmacare.

Just sayin’…

Seven Percent Solution on October 5, 2011 at 2:58 PM

Totally agree….the republican revolution passed a bill (that clinton signed) that forced the govt to live by the same rules we have to….exactly 17 specific laws….but there were gaping holes in that bill.

Did you know that the privacy act of 1974 wasn’t part of that? Congress still has the right to any information on you they want that the govt has just for the asking (demanding, really).

As for you folks that don’t like this, Sessions has real credibility here. If Snowe wants to claim some credit, I have no problem with it. The issues addressed in this bill need addressing. No, it won’t fix everything, but to turn your nose up to any improvement because it isn’t perfect is to demand we lose every battle from here forward. Is that really what you want here?

runawayyyy on October 5, 2011 at 6:23 PM

If Congress is really serious about budget reform, they should require all budget bills to be single topic — health care is health care, military is military, etc. No porking up a bill on disaster relief with funding for Planned Parenthood.

While they are at it, they should eliminate the parts of the 1974 Budget Act that require the President to spend every dime Congress authorizes. Prior to this wonderful Democrat Congress spending idea, Presidents of both parties would routinely impound spending that they deemed unnecessary to help balance the budget. It’s largely false that Presidents since 1974 have much blame for budget deficits and federal debt — Congress has required them to spend pretty much everything they’ve spent. In other words, Congress, not the President, is the problem with spending and has been since 1974 — which is about the time deficits and the federal debt really started to get out of control.

Go figure why Congress doesn’t want to own up to the political facade about Presidents being responsible for deficits and debt. It’s so convenient to blame someone else for your problems…

Side note : If such a budget rule were in place now, President Obama would easily fail miserably since he is an unmitigated spendaholic and it would easily be an even bigger campaign issue. It would have been interesting to see how Bush, Reagan, Clinton, or Bush might have operated with more power and freedom to control spending.

drfredc on October 5, 2011 at 7:58 PM

This kind of reforms last for about as long as it takes for politicians and lawyers to invent ways around them, which is why they need to happen regularly. More power to them.

flataffect on October 5, 2011 at 8:05 PM

Spend it this year, pay for it this year.

If the country does not move this way it’s creditors will move it this way.

{^_^}

herself on October 6, 2011 at 6:16 AM