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MILLER: Congress agrees: Keep spending

Democratic and Republican leaders preserve status quo on Capitol Hill

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Congressional Democrats and Republicans waged a war of words on Monday over their debt-ceiling plans, but their agendas amount to pretty much the same thing. Washington just can't kick its spending habit.

Both the blueprints cooked up by House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, claim 10-year domestic spending reductions equivalent to a bit over $1 trillion with the creation of new committees to find more spending reforms.

Neither leader will provide hard numbers for budget reductions in 2012, the only enforceable year. That means borrowing is immediate and spending cuts delayed. Neither plan raises taxes. The primary distinction between them is that Mr. Boehner seeks a smaller debt-ceiling increase, forcing President Obama to come back hat-in-hand in 2012 for more borrowing authority.

Mr. Reid's hocus-pocus is phonier than usual. His plan banks on $1 trillion in savings from the eventual "winding down" of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. So that means essentially he's giving the president $2.7 trillion to spend with only $1.7 trillion in alleged cuts. It's obvious that Mr. Reid's main motivation is pushing the issue beyond the election so Mr. Obama has the best shot at a second term.

"It's been the president's insistence that the election is the trigger and is the reason why you need that amount. And we're trying to say, look, we need to do something that is sustainable, that gets this nation back on track," House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Virginia Republican, told The Washington Times.

The most important aspect of Mr. Boehner's plan is that it sets a late-fall vote for a Balanced Budget Amendment, but this vote wouldn't tie the increased borrowing authority to House and Senate passage, as in the Cut, Cap and Balance bill. That basically dooms the amendment's chances in the Senate. Mr. Boehner told reporters Monday that he was counting on building support among the American people for passage and that the timing would help supporters get "behind one version" of the proposal.

In November, that public threw out big-spending Democrats en masse. They aren't likely to be thrilled about plans that take the $14.3 trillion debt and add another trillion in borrowing. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the federal government has so far spent $104 billion more this year than last, despite "cuts" enacted in the spring.

A promise of $1.2 trillion in savings over 10 years is $120 billion a year. Even at face value, that means locking in Mr. Obama's outrageous expenditure levels permanently. Congress won't change its profligate ways until its hands are tied by a constitutional amendment.

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