After a week off for…well, it’s not really clear why other than to campaign Congress took the first week in May off…the House and Senate are returning to Washington this week and immediately getting back to their old tricks when it comes to the federal budget — doing something that is purely symbolic, has no chance whatsoever of being enacted, and is bad policy to boot. Other than that, it’s a great idea.
As far as we know now (Would anyone be surprised if something else popped up?), the most egregiously silly thing that’s going to happen on the budget this week is the House’s consideration of what House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) is calling a “reconciliation” bill.
This bill would cut $78 billion in spending in fiscal 2013 and cancel the $90 billion spending cut that was triggered when the anything-but-super-committee failed to agree on a deficit reduction plan late last November. The bill also includes an additional $180 billion in spending cuts over the next nine years.
Several things need to be noted about this bill.
First, it has no chance whatsoever of being enacted. The Senate isn’t going to consider it, the president would veto it if it managed to pass the Senate, and the votes absolutely don’t exist to override the veto. The time spent debating this bill is a total waste of time and taxpayer dollars.
Second, although it’s being portrayed as a spending cut, the truth is that the bill would reduce spending LESS than will happen if the January spending cuts are allowed to go into effect as planned. It’s not hard to imagine what Ryan and his GOP colleagues would say if this was an effort by Democrats to reduce the size of that spending cut.
Third, technically this is not a reconciliation bill. Reconciliation is the process Congress uses to enforce the revenue and mandatory spending assumptions in a budget resolution conference agreement between the House and Senate. That means (1) there has to be a budget resolution conference agreement, which there isn’t this year and (2) the bill is only allowed to include provisions that relate to taxes and mandatory spending programs, and this one doesn’t.
Fourth, this is a huge missed opportunity and yet another example of how, in spite of all of the spin, Ryan is a budget coward rather than a leader. A serious effort to develop a compromise with House Democrats could easily have produced a bill that would have passed with bipartisan support and moved the budget debate forward. That would have annoyed some in the Republican and generated some opposition within the House GOP caucus, but the coalition would have passed the bill overwhelmingly. Instead of doing that, Ryan again cowardly decided to pander to the Republican base and in the process prevent the budget debate from moving forward the rest of the year.