- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Democrats’ expansive agenda of universal health care and tuition-free college could send the federal deficit soaring from $1 trillion to nearly $7 trillion a year by the end of the next decade, House Republicans said Tuesday, erecting a fiscal roadblock to liberals’ priorities.

Republicans on the House Budget Committee used the panel’s first public hearing of 2019 to highlight the cost of eight policy proposals Democrats have pushed recently, and calculated they would add more than $5 trillion in new annual spending by 2029.

Much of that would come from liberals’ “Medicare-for-all plan,” which Republicans said could cost taxpayers $30.4 trillion over 10 years.

“Even in light of our inability to cover existing deficits, my Democratic colleagues are proposing massive new spending programs which would dramatically increase our future deficit,” said Rep. Bill Johnson, Ohio Republican.

“Medicare-for-all” is the marquee proposal by Sen. Bernard Sanders, Vermont independent and potential Democratic presidential candidate. Liberal lawmakers said it would be a replacement for Obamacare — and they’ve asked Democratic leaders to study it.



Rep. John Yarmuth, the Budget Committee’s chairman, said afterward that nobody expects the entire liberal wish list to become law, but he said the House will at least examine some of the proposals.

“We have a lot of members who are interested in one or more of those — we’ll be talking about them a lot, I’m sure,” the Kentucky Democrat said.

He called Tuesday’s hearing to listen to the latest numbers from the Congressional Budget Office, which on Monday released another grim report on the federal government’s fiscal picture.

CBO said federal deficits are on track to reach $1 trillion in 2022 and top $1.3 trillion by 2029, with increases in mandatory spending on programs such as Medicare and Social Security driving much of the increase.

“Debt is on an unsustainable course in CBO’s projections,” CBO Director Keith Hall said. “To put it on a sustainable one, lawmakers will have to make significant changes to tax and spending policies.”

Mr. Hall told the Senate Budget Committee in a separate hearing Tuesday that, absent changes, Social Security’s disability trust fund will be exhausted in 2027.

Mr. Yarmuth said Democrats’ goal will be to try to tame deficits without endangering the big entitlement programs for senior citizens and the poor.

“I want our committee to help shine a bright spotlight on the reality of the situation we face, to fully vet the choices we have and then set the stage to make the most responsible decisions as a Congress,” he said.

Republicans said they’re happy to oblige by shining the light on liberal Democrats’ plans to expand spending on universal child care, federal housing subsidies and a job guarantee program, or new tax credits.

For example, Republicans estimated that passing new middle-class tax credits along the lines of a plan outlined by California Sen. Kamala D. Harris, a 2020 Democratic presidential contender, could cost $3.2 trillion over 10 years.

GOP lawmakers said the government will need to cut entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security.

“The biggest budget challenges lie in mandatory spending,” said Rep. Steve Womack, the top Republican on the committee. “If we don’t address these drivers of debt, our march towards fiscal insolvency won’t stop.”

Democrats, meanwhile, used some of their time with Mr. Hall on Tuesday to ask him about the effects of the tax cuts the Republican-led Congress passed in 2017.

“Republicans have cut taxes and sent deficits soaring time and time again,” Mr. Yarmuth said.

Mr. Hall said that factoring in additional interest costs, the tax cuts ultimately cost $1.9 trillion — up from an earlier figure of $1.5 trillion — and he undercut GOP claims that the law will pay for itself through increased revenue from a boosted economy.

“You’ve heard the line, will the tax bill pay for itself? By our estimate, it will pay for 30 percent of itself through the higher growth,” Mr. Hall told senators.

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