You would think that Phil Gramm — the former Republican Texas senator who was one of the authors of the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings budget process from the late 1980s — would know how the law bearing his name works.
At the very least you would expect that he’d do some homework to make sure he was right if he bylined an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal that said his old law from 27 years ago gave Congress mystical and previously unknown powers that no one else knew existed to come up with an alternative to the sequester that was triggered when the anything-but-super committee failed.
But Gramm either doesn’t remember how his law works or didn’t take the time to check out the facts.
I thought this had all died last November shortly after Gramm and Mike Solon, one of his former staffers, wrote a piece in the WSJ saying that, based on Gramm-Rudman-Hollings, a fast-track process existed that allowed Congress to rewrite a sequestration order — the formal process that puts a sequester in place. This would allow everything from repealing health care reform to tax reform to be done and for the across-the-board sequester reductions to be avoided.
But it doesn’t. Just before Congress recessed for the summer last week, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND) took to the floor to make it clear that Gramm doesn’t have a clue.
As Conrad explained, Gramm was referring to section 258A of GRH, which allowed the Senate majority leader to introduce a joint resolution to provide an alternative to a sequester order issued under section 254. Long-time federal budget watchers will remember that 254 was what was used to enforce annual deficit targets and spending limits. But…and it’s a big but…those targets and limits legally expired decades ago and absolutely don’t apply to the new sequestration procedures that were created by the law that was adopted last November — the Budget Control Act.
In other words, no mater what he thinks he knows, the old procedures Gramm was referring to don’t apply in any way to the new law.