WASHINGTON – In a major victory for Democrats, the
“Last month, House Republicans passed their budget resolution – by all of three votes. Today more of their members defected. Republican leaders could not muster a majority in support of their budget with its massive deficits and misguided priorities. To save face, they switched course and voted for the Democratic motion to instruct conferees. In doing so, they voted to drop deep and crippling cuts that they had prescribed for programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and veterans benefits, and to pare back their $1.3 trillion tax cut.
“The motion to instruct sends the budget conferees a powerful message, and that’s to get rid of the worst of the House Republican budget cuts. These cuts are not in the President’s budget, they are not in the Senate’s budget, and except for the House budget, they are not on anyone’s agenda.
“The Republicans tried to cloud their cuts in colloquies on the House floor, in which the Chairman of the Budget Committee assured committee chairman after committee chairman that his committee would not have to do what the black letters of this resolution plainly say his committee must do by July 18: cut veterans, cut student loans, cut civil service retirement, cut railroad retirement, cut Medicare, and cut Medicaid. Our motion says to the conferees, “Conform the budget resolution to the legislative history, recorded right here on the House floor.”
“These cuts would be questionable at any time; but cutting veterans when we are at war, and Medicaid when the states are struggling to sustain it, and student loans for no good reason, is callous and wrong.
“Frankly, I doubt that most of these cuts will be carried out, not this year anyway; but another large tax cut may be passed, and its impact on the deficit will be cushioned by pretending that these spending cuts will be enacted later as offsets. Most of these cuts will probably not be enacted later this year, but as deficits swell, as they surely will if the tax cuts proposed are passed, the spending cuts will come, and this budget resolution is a warning of where they will fall.
“One can ask fairly: What will happen to the budget’s bottom line if these spending cuts are not enacted? The answer is that these proposed spending cuts are made necessary by the proposed tax cuts. If we forgo the tax cuts, we can forgo the spending cuts in Medicare and Medicaid and veterans’ benefits and student loans and agriculture and railroad retiree pensions. As for the bottom line, if we just leave spending and revenues at current service levels, the Congressional Budget Office tells us the budget will be in balance by 2008. That’s four years sooner, and a couple of trillion dollars less debt, than the House Republican budget resolution promises.
“No wonder so many Republicans switched.”