The GOP Budget Trifecta

For Immediate Release:

June 24, 2004

Contact:Democratic Leadership Council

New Dem Daily

Congressional Republicans are on the brink of a truly remarkable three-stage abandonment of their tradition of fiscal responsibility. First, their policies have produced the largest budget deficits in American history, just three years after the largest budget surpluses in American history. Second, barring some surprising development, they will stumble through this election year without reaching agreement on any budget for the federal government -- the first time that's happened under united partisan control of Washington in the 30-year history of the congressional budget process. And third, congressional Republicans have all but abandoned any serious effort to reinstate the budget enforcement rules that were temporarily abandoned when the budget was in surplus.

This third dubious accomplishment will likely be consummated today, when House GOP leaders demand party-line support for a "budget enforcement" bill that will fall somewhere on a spectrum ranging from laughable to meaningless.

House Republicans have made it clear for months that they categorically oppose the restoration of "pay-as-you-go" rules -- a key part of the system that finally eliminated chronic budget deficits during the Clinton years -- that would require offsets to pay for new tax cuts as well as new spending proposals. But as Roll Call reported yesterday, Republican appropriations barons also opposed reviving "caps" on annual discretionary spending. Thus, the GOP leadership's bill leaves nothing in place other than a pay-as-you-go rule for new entitlement spending -- conveniently, a few months after Congress approved the largest new entitlement program in decades, the Medicare prescription drug benefit.

House Democrats almost universally support an alternative crafted by the ranking Democrat on the Budget Committee, Rep. John Spratt of SC, that includes pay-as-you-go rules for taxes and spending and annual spending caps. But House GOP leaders won't allow a vote on anything that includes restrictions on new tax cuts. As The New York Times said in an editorial this morning, omitting tax cuts from such rules is like "swearing off demon rum while continuing to binge on vodka martinis."

At a press conference yesterday held by House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer of MD, Rep. Spratt, and Blue Dog Coalition co-chairman Charles Stenholm of TX, Hoyer summed up the current Republican fiscal legacy aptly: "Don't let them get away with this charade. Don't let them preen as deficit hawks after running up the largest budget deficits in American history."