- - Wednesday, May 11, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Conservatives are supposed to stand for fiscal discipline, balanced budgets and reducing government waste. Yet House leadership is currently whipping votes for a bad budget deal that was negotiated behind closed doors by party leaders and that blows through the budget caps.

Despite Republican control of both the Senate and the House, the deficit is set to go up more than $100 billion to the $530 billion range. Last year marked the highest level of federal government spending ever.

All this spending on the backs of our kids. They have no effective lobby on Capitol Hill, so they lose to a Washington bureaucracy that is incapable of listening to the American people.

Leadership has already begun work on a number of spending bills that appropriate taxpayer dollars at unprecedented levels — even though Congress has yet to pass a budget.

Never before have House Republicans appropriated taxpayer money without a budget resolution.

Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin initially announced a budget resolution deadline of March 15, but no vote was held even by the April 15 statutory deadline.

All of this action, all of these decisions, are in the hands of a few.

Congress’ discretionary spending level for fiscal 2017 was capped at $1.04 trillion due to previous spending agreements dating back to 2011. But last year, outgoing Speaker John Boehner negotiated a deal with President Obama that broke the sequestration caps and increased government spending by $30 billion to a historic $1.07 trillion for fiscal 2017. Although this bill was opposed by the majority of Republicans, it passed thanks to 79 Republicans who voted for it, along with all 187 Democrats.

The country faces an imminent fiscal crisis, and the Republican Party has an obligation to change the direction we are headed. The federal government does not have to keep spending at unprecedented and unsustainable levels. The Founders placed the power of the purse in the hands of Congress.

We don’t know what will happen with the presidential election, but we — the Republicans who have a majority in the people’s House — have a historic opportunity to change the direction of our country now. Given that our children’s futures are at stake, it is our responsibility to make sure we get this right and do not pass the buck with a continuing resolution (that spends more of taxpayers’ hard-earned money) in the fall.

Congress should not allow a passive outcome where we back into spending $1.07 trillion as the default because Republicans in the House failed to lead when we had the opportunity to do so.

Republican leadership has been on a “listening tour”; and we in the House Freedom Caucus have provided about 40 different solutions and proposals on how to trim $30 billion from the Obama-Boehner deal budget number. While a balanced budget would require $530 billion in savings, the House Freedom Caucus compromised and requested that $30 billion in savings be trimmed from the budget. Whether the savings come from reforming autopilot or annual spending, or through a “sidecar” attached to a must-pass bill, we have simply been looking for a way to enact real savings now.

We are not getting enough feedback from leadership as to which solutions are acceptable and which are not. If none of the ideas we have offered are favorable, we need to know why so we can think through the problem and find new solutions. The information feedback loop is broken, and as an economist that’s very frustrating.

The fact that the House budget is at a standstill over $30 billion reveals how unserious some within the Republican Party are about fiscal discipline and actually addressing our national debt crisis.

The federal budget deficit will swell in relation to gross domestic product this year for the first time since 2009, ballooning to an estimated $534 billion in 2016, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. If Congress continues on its current path of spending, the deficit will surpass $1 trillion by 2022 and every year thereafter. That’s $30 trillion in debt in a decade. Feel the Bern and you will be at $40 trillion. Yes, with a “T.”

We have only to look to Puerto Rico to see where Washington’s addiction to spending can lead. Many have argued that Donald Trump may not be conservative on fiscal issues. That argument is hot air if Congress itself cannot walk the walk. There is nothing conservative about the Obama-Boehner budget deal that leadership is urging us to vote for.

If we are serious about fiscal discipline and a brighter future for our country, as conservatives say they are, we must pass a budget that actually reins in federal spending.

Dave Brat, a Virginia Republican, is a member of the House Budget Committee and the House Freedom Caucus.

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