Congress approved Barack Obama’s sweeping new budget late last night, approving a level of spending over 10% more than the final year of the Bush administration despite the economic crisis. The $3.5 trillion budget grew over 2009’s $3.1 trillion spending plan, and left almost all of Obama’s wish lists intact despite the supposed intervention of Senate Democrat Kent Conrad:
Congressional Democrats overwhelmingly embraced President Obama’s ambitious and expensive agenda for the nation yesterday, endorsing a $3.5 trillion spending plan that sets the stage for the president to pursue his most far-reaching priorities.
Voting along party lines, the House and Senate approved budget blueprints that would trim Obama’s spending proposals for the fiscal year that begins in October and curtail his plans to cut taxes. The blueprints, however, would permit work to begin on the central goals of Obama’s presidency: an expansion of health-care coverage for the uninsured, more money for college loans and a cap-and-trade system to reduce gases that contribute to global warming.
The measures now move to a conference committee where negotiators must resolve differences between the two chambers, a prelude to the more difficult choices that will be required to implement Obama’s initiatives. While Democrats back the president’s vision for transforming huge sectors of the economy, they remain fiercely divided over the details.
There is no agreement, for example, on how to pay for an overhaul of the health-care system expected to add more than $1 trillion to the budget over the next decade, nor is there consensus on how to spend the hundreds of billions of dollars the government stands to collect by setting limits on greenhouse gas emissions and forcing industry to buy permits to pollute. Those issues will be decided in committees where lawmakers have begun the torturous work on the specifics of Obama’s broad plans.
President Obama has lost some Congressional support since Porkulus. The Washington Post doesn’t mention this in its report, but Democratic defectors grew from seven in the House to 20 defectors last night. In the Senate, where Democrats won three key Republican votes for Porkulus, they didn’t get a single GOP vote. In fact, they lost two Democrats: Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Evan Bayh (D-IN). Bayh had tried to lead a centrist bloc to gain more concessions from Reid, Pelosi, and Obama, but in the end his Gang of 15 seems to have been a duet.
This budget does at least one thing right. Instead of getting separate “emergency” authorizations for war appropriations, the funding for Iraq and Afghanistan are built into the budget. That accounts for $130 billion of the increase over FY2009, and it ends the ridiculous practice of pretending that no one could plan for war resources. The Bush administration should have made that move after the 2003 invasion instead of continuing to use emergency supplementals that became a poltical lightning rod every time it went to Congress for the funding.
Other than that, though, Judd Gregg has this budget analyzed correctly:
“The practical implications of this budget are that we will put in place spending and borrowing which will absolutely put this country on an unsustainable path and WILL create massive problems for us in the out years if it’s followed,” said ranking Senate Budget Committee member Judd Gregg (R-N.H.).
Even the White House’s rosy projections show this to be a disaster. It grows the deficits in every year over the next 12 even under the best of circumstances. In an era where Americans have to tighten their belts and reduce their borrowing in order to shore up their own financial situations, Congress and Obama have shown no such sense of shared sacrifice. Instead, they’re busy borrowing like maniacs to pay for their own pet projects. It’s a disgrace, and even some Democrats have discovered this.