The five-year bud­get itch

House con­ser­va­tives of­fer solid plan to bal­ance the bud­get by 2017

The Washington Times Daily - - Opinion -

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.

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