COM­MENT & ANAL­Y­SIS

Gov­ern­ment shut­down threat re­turns Harry Reid goes bal­lis­tic over cut­ting two days’ worth of spend­ing

The Washington Times Daily - - Opinion -

Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Harry Reid is wor­ried House Repub­li­cans might try to save a lit­tle money with the bud­get they’re set to re­lease next week. The Ne­vada Demo­crat got wind the plan will au­tho­rize less than the ab­so­lute max­i­mum amount al­lowed un­der the debt-ceil­ing deal signed into law last sum­mer.

This could mean mu­tu­ally as­sured po­lit­i­cal destruc­tion, Mr. Reid warned on Tues­day. “The re­ports in the press are rife that the Re­pub­li­can right wing — and that says a lot — in the House are try­ing to change the agree­ment that we made as a mat­ter of law,” said the Sil­ver State se­na­tor. “I guess they love gov­ern­ment shut­downs, or at least the threat of them.” Only a tax-and-spend lib­eral like Mr. Reid could raise such an alarm over the prospect that he won’t be able to spend ev­ery sin­gle dime of tax­pay­ers’ money he thinks is his to throw around.

House Bud­get Com­mit­tee Chair­man Paul Ryan found it hyp­o­crit­i­cal for the Se­nate leader to com­plain when he hasn’t pro­duced a bud­get since Pres­i­dent Obama was elected. “It is dif­fi­cult to take Sen. Reid’s com­ments se­ri­ously when the United States Se­nate that he and his party con­trol have been in vi­o­la­tion of the 1974 Con­gres­sional Bud­get Act for over 1,000 days,” the Wis­con­sin Re­pub­li­can said in a writ­ten state­ment.

Mr. Reid will avoid writ­ing a bud­get once again and in­stead use the spend­ing caps set in the Bud­get Con­trol Act (BCA), the final deal made be­tween con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans and Pres­i­dent Obama to lower spend­ing to ac­count for bor­row­ing an­other $2.1 tril­lion. The law al­lows Congress to spend up to $1.047 tril­lion in 2013. Last year’s House-passed bud­get planned to spend $19 bil­lion less in 2013. “Web­ster’s Dic­tionary de­fines a ‘cap’ as an up­per limit on ex­pen­di­tures — and that’s what it means,” said Michael Steel, spokesman for House Speaker John A. Boehner.

Con­ser­va­tives also want Mr. Ryan to bud­get for the $97 bil­lion that will be se­questered from spend­ing on Jan. 2, 2013, to make up for the su­per­com­mit­tee fail­ing to iden­tify cuts. Mr. Ryan said he will re­as­sign the se­quester cuts so they don’t fall dis­pro­por­tion­ately hard on de­fense, but not whether he will lower the over­all spend­ing or push that money into off-bud­get ac­counts.

What­ever the top line they give in the bud­get, Repub­li­cans need to keep to it through the rest of the year. “These caps are so per­fo­rated with loop­holes that they are ef­fec­tively mean­ing­less,” said Pa­trick Knud­sen, se­nior fel­low at the Her­itage Foun­da­tion. “The Ap­pro­pri­a­tions Com­mit­tee al­ready blew through the BCA caps for 2012 by adding spend­ing in other ar­eas, such as dis­as­ter, with­out off­sets.” A spend­ing limit is only as good as the po­lit­i­cal will to keep to it.

The Con­gres­sional Bud­get Of­fice (CBO) up­dated fig­ures this week es­ti­mat­ing this year’s deficit will be even higher, at $1.2 tril­lion. “Congress needs to fo­cus on the en­ti­tle­ment spend­ing and not get stuck in the minu­tiae,” Mr. Knud­sen said. “CBO’S pro­jec­tions show spend­ing at un­prece­dented and per­ma­nent lev­els at about one-fourth the en­tire econ­omy, al­most en­tirely be­cause of un­con­trolled spend­ing in gov­ern­ment health care and re­tire­ment pro­grams.”

In­stead of get­ting into a gov­ern­ment shut­down fight with Mr. Reid over what amounts to less than two days of Un­cle Sam’s spend­ing, House Repub­li­cans need to push for re­duced out­lays in a plan to bal­ance the bud­get in less than a gen­er­a­tion.

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