The five-year budget itch
House conservatives offer solid plan to balance the budget by 2017
The House will vote Thursday on a spending blueprint for 2013. Members will choose from among five options this week, but only House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s plan has enough support to pass. Still, the House GOP’S conservative wing wants to educate the public about fiscal responsibility by debating their second “Cut, Cap and Balance” plan.
This Republican Study Committee (RSC) proposal balances the budget in only five years, compared to 30 years for the Ryan budget. “No one can attack us for not using baseline or saying anything is outside the norm or radical or extreme,” said Rep. Scott Garrett, New Jersey Republican, vice chairman of the Budget Committee and an RSC member.
The RSC budget reduces next year’s spending levels another $97 billion to account for the sequester with immediate cuts in discretionary spending. Mr. Ryan chose to find these savings through a reconciliation process that will force reforms to mandatory programs. The RSC’S final numbers would actually fulfill the House GOP’S pledge to bring spending back to pre-stimulus, prebailout levels. Discretionary outlays would then be frozen for five years until the budget balances, thereafter growing only by inflation. Unnecessary Washington programs would be eliminated, including the National Labor Relations Board, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Presidential Campaign Fund, Trade Adjustment Assistance and National Endowment for the Arts.
Entitlement programs are also on the table. Like the Ryan budget, the RSC plan would send Medicaid funds to the states as block grants, but the conservatives keep funding at 2013 levels for 10 years rather than increasing for inflation. After unemployment drops to 6.5 percent, welfare spending would return to the pre-recession level in order to encourage bureaucrats to eliminate or consolidate the myriad of overlapping means-tested programs. In 10 years, Social Security’s eligibility age would gradually increase to 70, while the Ryan budget makes no change to the retirement program. Both plans allow seniors to opt into private health insurance plans or stay within Medicare. No change affects anyone over 55.
RSC members plan to vote for Mr. Ryan’s budget as well as their own because they fought to get many of their policy priorities included in the former. The purpose of the alternative option is to set a new benchmark. “We do think that you should build on all that good work and still get to balance in a reasonable period of time,” said RSC Chairman Rep. Jim Jordan, Ohio Republican. “And deal with the sequester in a straightforward way.”
Meanwhile, expect congressional Democrats to hide under their seats this week on the floor. House Democrats are so embarrassed by President Obama’s budget submission that they didn’t even ask to vote on it. Republicans will bring it up anyway to see just how many will support adding $6.4 trillion to the debt in the next 10 years. It’s refreshing to see the House put so much effort into developing realistic proposals to restore fiscal responsibility in Washington. It’s a shame the Senate won’t follow suit.