- The Washington Times - Friday, March 22, 2019

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi on Friday unveiled a federal budget for 2020 that includes some of President Trump’s entitlement spending trims but ditches his defense spending gimmicks and rosy economic assumptions.

The Wyoming Republican’s plan leaves open the possibility of hitting Mr. Trump’s $750 billion goal for defense spending, but only if Congress can agree to a deal to raise spending caps that likely also means a short-term spike in domestic spending — which Mr. Trump has opposed.

Mr. Enzi’s plan does track the president’s blueprint on sweating savings out of entitlement spending programs such as Medicare, though, where the chairman says $551 billion can be saved over the next five years.

Mr. Enzi called his plan a “responsible first step” to begin to tame deficits, which are projected to top $1 trillion a year for most of the next decade.

“It supports reasonable reforms to mandatory spending programs and works to improve efficiency and accountability for how taxpayer dollars are spent, ensuring that government programs deliver results,” the senator said.

The budget committee is scheduled to consider the proposal next Wednesday and Thursday.

The Congressional Budget Act sets April 1 as the target deadline for the committee to report an annual budget resolution.

Mr. Trump’s own budget, released earlier this month, says the budget can be balanced over 15 years through a combination of steep spending cuts and projections of economic growth unparalleled in modern U.S. history.

Mr. Enzi is countering with a five-year budget, which he said includes “achievable” cuts and would keep the deficit below $1 trillion a year.

His plan projects that the deficit would fall to $748 billion by 2024.

The plan is an important marker for congressional Republicans, giving them a different vision than Mr. Trump’s, though whether the Senate will take up a budget this year is in doubt.

Democrats, who control the House, are struggling to write a budget, pulled between left-wing lawmakers who want the budget to tackle global warming and health care, and more moderate Democrats who say those policies are unrealistic.

Mr. Enzi’s plan sets as a benchmark a total of $750 billion in defense funding for 2020, which is in line with Mr. Trump’s request, but he also leaves in place current budget caps that would limit spending to far less than that.

It would take a new bipartisan deal to raise the caps. Such deals have been common over the past decade, but they’ve always included increases in domestic spending along with defense.

The president got around the cap for defense in his 2020 budget proposal by parking $165 billion in a special war fund that’s exempt from the limits — a move roundly criticized by budget-watchers as a major gimmick.

Mr. Enzi’s plan, meanwhile, includes $67 billion for the war fund in 2020.

Budget resolutions don’t have the power to change policy, but Mr. Enzi’s plan includes a reserve fund to accommodate a new caps deal, as long it doesn’t increase the deficit over a 10-year period.

A spokesman for House Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth, Kentucky Democrat, said the biggest budget issue Congress faces this year is the need to raise the caps.

“While Senator Enzi’s budget signals support for an increase in defense spending to a total of $750 billion in 2020, it ignores the harsh cuts to non-defense programs that are at risk this year,” said spokesman Sam Lau.

He said Mr. Yarmuth “continues to work on a budget proposal that will ensure we raise the caps and meet our responsibilities to the American people.”

Also unlike the president’s plan, which assumes the economy will grow by about 3 percent on average over the next decade, Mr. Enzi’s outline uses Congressional Budget Office projections of growth of less than 2 percent on average.

Mr. Enzi’s plan also includes a number of other reserve funds, including one to accommodate an Obamacare “repeal and replace” plan that would address coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.

It also instructs five committees, including the tax-writing finance committee, to produce legislation that would reduce the deficit by at least $94 billion over five years through a mechanism known as reconciliation.

In contrast to the House, the plan directs CBO and the Joint Committee on Taxation to factor in macroeconomic effects when they calculate the cost of major legislation.

House Democrats removed such a “dynamic scoring” requirement from the rules package they passed in January, reversing a GOP-led change that aimed in part to take into account broader economic effects from tax cuts.

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