Is the Ryan Budget a Joke?

Last April, House Republicans released the Ryan budget for FY 2012 with much fanfare and promise.  The budget resolution was approved almost unanimously among the members of the conference, and they spent the subsequent spring months working on individual appropriations bills that reflected the goals and the spending levels established in that budget blueprint.

Later that year, Republicans summarily jettisoned the Ryan budget for the debt ceiling deal, the minibus, and the megabus.  Ultimately, they wound up spending more than the previous year on the discretionary side, and failed to enact any of the transformational change on entitlements and welfare as prescribed in the Ryan budget.  They also agreed to fund Obamacare and every other program that was defunded in the Ryan budget.

Fast forward to April 2012, and we are experiencing deja vu with the FY 2013 Ryan budget, albeit at a quicker pace.  Ryan introduced a watered-down version of last year’s budget, both in terms of entitlement reform and discretionary spending.  On the discretionary side, he set the topline spending at $1.028 trillion, just $15 billion below last year’s level, but $95 billion above the pre-Obama levels.  Yet, this is too harsh for the Republican establishment because it is $19 billion below the level set by the debt ceiling deal – a bill they should be ashamed of supporting in the first place.  Now it turns out that the entire budget was a joke.  This, from Roll Call:

Boxed in by their Senate colleagues on one side and House conservatives on the other, House Republican leaders are starting the slow march toward the Budget Control Act without explicitly walking away from their own House-passed budget. […]

That eventuality was reinforced last week when Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) voted for that spending mark in the chamber’s Appropriations Committee, and President Barack Obama threatened to veto bills that don’t adhere to the BCA.

In the meantime, however, Rogers is walking a fine line. He wants to pass all 12 spending bills, and he must pass at least some to have leverage in negotiations with the Senate over a continuing resolution. To do so, he needs House Democratic votes because many Republicans routinely vote against spending bills.

Appropriators will release subcommittee allocations this week, and within the topline number of $1.028 trillion, Rogers and his cardinals are front-loading some of the bills with modest spending cuts or even increases to lure Democrats. Others will likely have deep cuts to appease fiscal conservatives.

So the entire Ryan budget resolution was a joke.  Mitch McConnell lets the Senate Appropriations Committee vote to void the Ryan budget, while Hal Rogers works to “front-load the spending bills so that they won’t lose out on any big-government venture once everyone realizes that the game is over towards the end of the spring.  Other Republicans, like Steven LaTourette, are already stating definitively that we will wind up with $1.047 trillion.  That’s some way to negotiate away your leverage with Democrats.  Then again, these Republicans have no interest in the lower level of spending – even if they controlled all of Congress.

Congressman Mick Mulvaney called out Rogers for his front-loading subterfuge:

“We have a history of pointing out the hypocrisy of front-loading and how it leads to higher spending,” the aide said. “They underfund the later bills, people get outraged when we get to them, they get plussed-up, then the overall spending is higher.”

Rep. Mick Mulvaney said that happened with the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education bill last year, and he hopes history will not repeat itself.

“That would be extraordinarily disappointing and something we’d have to talk about with leadership because we were told that wouldn’t happen this year,” the South Carolina Republican said.

It’s funny to watch how every single elected Republican and every candidate for Congress talks incessantly about profligate spending and the need to balance the budget.  Yet, most of these guys support the bills that will ensure the budget is never balanced.  Why don’t they just join the Democrats next year and forget about proposing a budget?  Why waste money on the GPO printing costs if they have no intention of following the budget, and more importantly, they communicate that intention to the Democrats?

It is for this reason that we must elect more conservatives like Mick Mulvaney in the congressional primaries.  Those candidates who espouse support for balanced budgets, yet are committed to voting with leadership, will only help continue the mockery of failed GOP budget promises.

Cross-posted from The Madison Project

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