by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Even as the national debt now exceeds $33 trillion, conservatives can take some measure of solace in the ways they are reducing spending. Washington isn’t reducing the national debt — not by a long shot, sadly — but having a Republican majority means conservatives can succeed at some modest measures of damage limitation.
Two weeks ago, I analyzed in these pages why Republicans wanted to pass legislation extending a mandatory spending program originally created by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders as part of Obamacare. Last week, House leaders tried to bring that bill to the floor — but abandoned their efforts before it even came up for a vote.
The story of this policy U-turn demonstrates conservatives’ influence in preventing new spending and the pressure points in the ongoing debate over next year’s budget. …
… I noted that the measure contained 10 years of budgetary savings to fund two years of spending. I didn’t realize it at the time (although I should have), but that rubric violates the rules instituted by the new Republican majority in January. Specifically, the CUTGO rule — Clause 10(a) of Rule XXI of the House … states that legislation cannot increase mandatory spending over its first five or 10 years.
Page two of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) score of the updated legislation tells the tale. The bill would increase mandatory (i.e., direct) spending by $11.9 billion in its first five years, and $3.8 billion in its first 10. …
… While CBO stated the bill would reduce the deficit over 10 years, because some provisions in the measure (not explicit tax increases) would generate additional revenue, the House’s CUTGO rules don’t allow these types of “tax-and-spend” gambits. Nor does CUTGO allow for a “spend now, save later” approach. The bill clearly violated House rules — and conservatives knew it.