Congressional Republicans are running scared from the mere mention of a government shutdown. Capitol Hill has been in a standoff all year as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, has refused to move any spending bills that failed to expend the maximum amount allowed under the law. House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, cut a deal to approve yet more spending to avoid the possibility of a confrontation before the elections.
In statements released simultaneously on Tuesday, Mr. Reid and Mr. Boehner announced the compromise that keeps the government funded through March 30. The overall spending levels will be at the maximum allowed under the Budget Control Act, which is $4 billion more than last year. The House budget called for spending $19 billion less than this amount.
The conservative wing of the GOP pushed their leadership for a six-month deal believing this would be safer than negotiating with Mr. Reid in a lame-duck session, where he would have extra leverage from impending Taxmageddon rate hikes. Fiscal hawks expected they would have to sacrifice their push this year to keep spending to the level set in the House-passed budget, conceding the reality that the outcome would be maximum spending under last year's budget deal.
Conservatives were taken off-guard, however, when they learned this deal would not be implemented through a "clean" continuing resolution that funds federal agencies at current levels. Instead of a simple one-page measure, Mr. Boehner announced that congressional staff will be writing the legislation over the August recess. A new bill was necessary for the Congressional Budget Office to score it. The end result may lose some Republican support since it will fully fund Obamacare and contain other liberal spending projects.
To strike a deal with Democrats, Republicans keep having to cede to the higher numbers. "This is a $3.5 trillion operation, and they don't have a fiscal year anymore. Can you imagine running a business that way?" asked Patrick Louis Knudsen, a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation. "We have spend-as-you-go budgeting that carries on all year 'round. It's no wonder the public loses confidence in Congress."
Our legislature has surrendered its responsibility to properly manage this country's finances. "This deal wasn't an inevitable outcome," the budget analyst added. "It is a conscious choice that extends the unraveling of congressional budgeting. Without a stable process, lawmakers won't know what to do when they have to deal with the real crisis -- entitlements."
At best, the agreement avoids the possibility of Mr. Reid conjuring the threat of a government shutdown to push for targeted tax hikes. Now Democrats can just sit back and $4.5 trillion in across-the-board hikes will hit in January. The GOP chose the path of least resistance in order to preserve political power. With the national debt exceeding $15.9 trillion, Republicans need to realize if they don't take a stand on principle now, they may not ever have the opportunity again.
Emily Miller is a senior editor for the Opinion pages at The Washington Times.
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