When Republicans caved on raising the debt limit last year, we referred to the final Boehner proposal as a ground ball into a double play. Not only did Boehner fail to secure any transformational change in exchange for raising the debt ceiling (except for cutting the military), he actually obviated our leverage in future budget battles.
As part of the debt limit agreement, Congress passed the Budget [out of] Control Act, which totally abrogated the discretionary spending levels set under the much vaunted Ryan budget. In fact, it hindered our leverage over budget battles for the next ten years. For FY 2012, the BCA set the discretionary spending level at $1.043 trillion, $24 billion above the Ryan budget. [Ultimately, due to non-offset emergency spending, they wound up spending $1.053 trillion.] For this coming fiscal year, the BCA set budget authority at $1.047 trillion (not including emergency spending), $19 billion above the level established in the Ryun budget for FY 2013.
To be clear, there is nothing stopping Republicans from rectifying their mistake and setting discretionary spending levels lower than those specified in the BCA. It’s just that many Republicans, as predicted, are squeamish about going back on their commitment to Democrats. Some of our buddies on the appropriations committee are already contemplating a House budget that mirrors the BCA spending levels:
Not passing a budget is also undesirable for the House GOP, as it has pilloried Senate Democrats for deciding not to pass a budget resolution this year and for relying on the Budget Control Act.
“That’s problematic. We might not pass a budget, who knows?” said Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), a Member of both the Budget and Appropriations committees.
Some Republicans on the panel, such as Simpson, want to pass a budget in line with July’s Budget Control Act, which set spending levels for fiscal 2013 at
$1.047 trillion. Conservatives, on the other hand, want to bring the number down to fall in line with House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan’s original number of about $1.028 trillion. […]
“If you’ve got a group of people that are going to vote ‘no’ no matter what because any money is too much money, then you’re going to need Democratic support, and that means the number has to go — guess what? — up to [$1.047 trillion],” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a member of both the Budget and Appropriations committees. […]
“We all know that once it gets down to negotiations with the Senate, it will be done within that framework,” he said. “If the Budget Control Act says [$1.047 trillion], that’s where you’re going to be. Do you really want to structure something that you know you’re not going to hit that number, pass it, and then at the end of the day look like you caved in the fall by going up to [$1.047 trillion]?”
Congressman Cole, the only reason “we’re not going to hit that number” is because people like you – the ones who bequeathed us with the BCA – will cave again.
There is also another complication in the budget process as a result of the impending sequestration. Fiscal year 2013 runs from October 1, 2012 to September 30, 2012, but starting in calendar year 2013, the automatic sequestration will take effect. According to CBO, there will be an automatic rescission of $97 billion in across-the-board discretionary spending from any level of spending set at the beginning of the fiscal year. Roughly 50% of the cuts will be incurred by the military. The FY 2013 budget offers Republicans the opportunity to kill two birds with one stone by parrying the cuts away from the military and onto the destructive branches of government.
Here’s what they should do: Start with the $1.028 trillion topline figure under the Ryan budget, and cut $97 billion off of non-security discretionary spending at the beginning of the year. In other words, they should set the topline figure at $931 billion. Where will they find the $112 billion in non-security cuts? There’s no dearth of options. We can cut the departments of Education, Commerce, Green Energy, and HUD (roughly $163 billion). Oh, and we can also devolve most highway spending back to the states, saving $50 billion a year. There’s also plenty of low-hanging fruit within Agriculture, Labor, and HHS.
Hey, as conservatives, we believe in forgiveness and second chances. House Republicans have another chance to get it right. On the other hand, the congressional primaries are just around the corner. We need more members with the fighting spirit of Andrew Breitbart, not the surrender spirit of Mitch McConnell.