by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Whoever emerges from the current chaos to become the next House speaker, one of the first issues he or she will have to deal with is funding the federal government for the remainder of the current fiscal year. It won’t be easy, but the choices made will tell us a great deal about the new speaker’s priorities and whether the revolt against the GOP leadership has actually changed anything in Washington.
As usual, Congress has been unable to pass the required appropriations bills that would fund the government until October 2016. Therefore, in what has become an annual ritual, Congress passed a stop-gap continuing resolution funding the government through December 11.
Passing another funding bill will not be a simple task. The media are fixated on threats by some Republicans to defund Planned Parenthood, a poison pill that will provoke a Democratic filibuster in the Senate and, if it gets that far, a presidential veto. But a much bigger question is whether Congress will abandon one of its few recent successes, the discretionary spending levels imposed by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA) and sequestration.
To date BCA and sequestration have reduced federal spending by at least $200 billion from what it would have been under pre-sequester baselines. That’s a substantial savings for taxpayers and a major factor in helping to reduce our budget deficit to just (just!) $435 billion in FY 2015. That’s not to say that federal spending is under control. Sequestration does not apply to the entitlement programs that are the big drivers of the federal budget. Total federal spending continues to rise.
But without sequestration and the budget caps it would have been much worse.