House Speaker John Boehner’s debt-ceiling-and-deficit-reduction bill, now through Revision Round 2 and headed for likely passage, has hogged most media attention over the past few days, but, with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid now touting his bill as “the only compromise there is,” the lesser-known parts of Reid’s proposal deserve a little bit of attention.
First and most importantly, the bill actually explicitly seeks to excuse the Senate from passing a budget resolution for the next two years. Reid and Senate Democrats have enjoyed a more-than-800-day vacation from crafting a budget in the first place, but that’s just not enough — never mind that the law requires the Senate to pass a budget every year. So, how does the Reid plan enable the Senate to skirt its responsibility even further? It “deems” a budget for this year and next year.
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) explained today on the Senate floor just what this means:
The Reid amendment to increase the debt limit deems two consecutive budget resolutions for fiscal years 2012 and 2013. In other words, it basically takes over the budget process and sets the basic spending number. Does the president think the Senate should go two more years without crafting or passing a budget? We’ve already gone two. The Reid amendment sets spending allocations for most Senate committees at the Congressional Budget Office’s rising baseline. … So it just says we’re going to deem the amount we spend, what C.B.O. has projected our growth and spending to be. And C.B.O. projects growth in spending. They don’t set that as right for America, but they project that’s what will occur under current circumstances. … So without hearings or debate on these allocations, this provision would provide a further excuse for avoiding a budget and increase the likelihood … the Congressional Budget Act will be violated for the third straight year. This is an abrogation of the responsibilities of the Senate and of the Budget Committee of the United States Senate. We were not elected to the Senate and chosen to serve on the Committee on the Budget … to see most of the budget levels automatically raised based on a set of spending growth projections by some apparachix in the C.B.O.
Sessions is right. It is an abrogation of responsibility — and one that’s been little remarked upon in discussion of Reid’s amendment.
Next, Reid’s bill boasts the largest debt increase in U.S. history — $2.7 trillion. Up to now, the most sizable increase has been $1.9 trillion (also an Obama increase). Debt ceiling increases might be routine — but hikes of this magnitude are not. Far better — and, frankly, more in line with precedent — to split that increase into two “smaller” amounts (even split in half, the increase is monstrous!).
Finally, as has been repeatedly pointed out, the savings in Reid’s bill aren’t exactly real. Reid touts dollar-for-dollar savings, but that’s a ruse. The bill actually delivers just $1 trillion in cuts in exchange for that unprecedented $2.7 trillion increase. The Global War on Terror savings are a gimmick. The administration has never requested current levels of funding for the war for the next ten years (i.e. the administration has never planned to spend $160 billion each year on the war for the next 10 years). Not funding what the administration was never going to fund doesn’t qualify as a cut.
Yet, Reid still claims his bill represents a compromise, whereas Boehner’s bill does not. Here he is today, making it sound as though he’s doing a favor to moderate Republicans who recoil from the lack of compromise Boehner has put forth:
Right now, this is the only compromise there is. … What is being done in the House is not a compromise. It’s being jammed through there with all kinds of non-transparent dealings. We’re recognizing the only compromise there is, is mine. Ours is truly a bipartisan piece of legislation. Republicans realize that. I’ve had a number of Republicans come to me. I had one Republican come to me and say, “Thank you” for your legislation. … I’ve asked my friend Sen. McConnell to meet with me and try to work this out. … The stakes couldn’t be higher. The security of our nation, every family, is at stake here. If the debt ceiling is not increased, every American family will feel an increase in their taxes, all their payments, credit cards, loans that they’ve taken out for their children to go to college, car payments, mortgages on their houses. So I say here to my Republican colleagues in the Senate to put the American people first. … The people we all represent want us to come together.
But what does the bill offer that Republicans want? Equivalent cuts? No. Enforceable future cuts? No. A vote on a balanced budget amendment? Certainly not.
Why aren’t House Republicans writing Reid a letter to say they won’t support his bill if it makes it to the House? Why isn’t Boehner saying it’s DOA?