- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 2, 2005

With the White House and both chambers of Congress now attempting to curb spending, it seems timely to compare the efforts of today’s Republican-controlled Congress with the efforts of the newly elected Republican-dominated 104th Congress in 1995.

The 109th works closely with a Republican in the White House, while the 104th had to battle a Democratic president. Not only did Bill Clinton constantly threaten to veto bills, but he actually used his veto pen 11 times in 1995 alone. On the other hand, President Bush has yet to veto a single bill during the nearly five years he’s been in office. Also, whereas Mr. Clinton vetoed Republican-crafted spending measures because he believed the 104th Congress was spending too little, Mr. Bush has not vetoed a single spending bill despite the fact that spending has been soaring.

In 1995, Congress was considering a seven-year plan to balance the federal budget, which recorded a $163 billion deficit in fiscal 1995, when spending hit $1.5 trillion. Federal spending in 2005 totaled $2.5 trillion, reflecting an increase of two-thirds over 10 years. Meanwhile, after reaching a nominal record of $412 billion in 2004, the budget deficit in 2005 ($319 billion) was nearly twice the 1995 deficit.

The 104th pursued one of Congress’ most basic constitutional duties — guarding the public purse. The 109th? Federal spending over five years is projected to increase from $2.5 trillion to more than $3 trillion. The Senate is trying to moderate this explosive trend by reducing cumulative five-year spending on mandatory entitlement programs by $39 billion (less than $8 billion per year), while the House is seeking $50 billion over five years.

What a difference a decade makes. In 1995, the 104th Congress approved a seven-year budget-reconciliation bill that restrained the growth in entitlement spending by (a) $270 billion for Medicare; (b) $163 billion for Medicaid; (c) $82 billion for welfare programs, mostly affecting Aid to Families with Dependent Children ($12 billion per year); $32 billion for the Earned Income Tax Credit; $12 billion for farm subsidies; $7 billion for veterans benefits; and $5 billion for student loans. Non-defense discretionary spending would be nearly $200 billion lower than previously projected over the seven-year period. Beyond achieving a balanced budget by 2002, the reconciliation plan also would have reduced taxes by $245 billion over seven years. The House blueprint would have abolished the departments of Commerce, Education and Energy.

Mr. Clinton vetoed the reconciliation bill that emerged from conference committee and offered his own. His seven-year plan would have restrained spending by $124 billion for Medicare, $54 billion for Medicaid, $46 billion for welfare programs (food stamps, Supplemental Security Income, etc.) and $250 billion for domestic discretionary spending. Now, where stands the Republican leadership on cutting back on spending?

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