This is what federal budgeting has come to.
Politicians in Congress are upset about a potential plan to get rid of a budgeting trick known as “CHIMPS,” or Changes-In-Mandatory-Programs. Last year, we joined with 19 other groups urging Congress not to rely on this particularly shady trick.
But now, to hear some politicians tell it, this ability to shift funding from mandatory programs to artificially hike up discretionary spending is the only way they’ll be able to come up with $20 billion.
Just as negotiators are pressing to finalize a Republican budget, several top House appropriators waded into the debate Thursday and warned budget writers to stay away from a vital funding stream — lest they tank the entire appropriations process.
House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers said an obscure budget provision backed by Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Senate Budget Chairman Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) would make his panel trim another $20 billion beyond what’s already required by the 2011 deficit-reduction law that first reduced, then froze spending for the past few years.
“It’s almost $20 billion that we would have to find from somewhere — and there’s nowhere else to go,” Rogers, (R-Ky.), said off the House floor. “So I’m very concerned. … I keep hoping … we come to another plan … that will ease the pressure on sequestration. But until that happens, the CHIMPS money is really” important.
There are plenty of places to find the $20 billion — and much more — and that’s just low-hanging fruit that many across the political spectrum easily support.
In case anyone is wondering, this perspective is utterly absurd.
In entirely predictable news, it seems like many politicians don’t like accountability.
GOP congressional leaders are racing to approve a budget blueprint for the coming year that abides by strict spending limits, determined to show that the party can maintain fiscal discipline.
But some rank-and-file Republicans are already expressing interest in a much bigger deal that would adjust those caps, sweep away the still-developing blueprint and ease the budgetary pressure on the Pentagon — and, grudgingly, domestic programs if necessary.
Read the rest here.
This is why our cause is so important. As long as deals consist of “I’ll vote for your spending if you’ll vote for mine,” we won’t have true spending reform that’s so desperately needed.
Fiscal conservatives who want reform of this crucial area of the federal budget should watch carefully tomorrow. From The Hill:
Every member of the House will have the chance on Tuesday to make recommendations for what should be in this year’s defense policy bill, which is produced by members of the House Armed Services Committee.
The annual “Member Day,” which is held like a regular, multi-panel hearing, gives lawmakers who do not sit on the panel the opportunity to advocate for military concerns back in their districts, such as supporting a base or keeping funding for a weapons program.
The event was started so that every lawmaker would have a chance to make the case for “why they wanted things in the bill. And we would listen to them as long as they came,” said former Armed Services chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), who began the tradition and retired at the end of the last Congress.
Like any government department, we know the Pentagon is full of waste and inefficiency. Anyone who cares about the debt should listen closely to their representatives tomorrow.
Ron Haskins at Brookings takes on the rising federal debt obligations — particularly the unfunded liabilities that push up the total number far higher than most people realize.
… CBO’s debt estimates do not take into account the full financial obligations the government is committed to honor, especially for future payments of Social Security, Medicare, and interest on the debt. He asserts that the federal government should help the public understand the nation’s true fiscal situation by using what economists call “the infinite-horizon fiscal gap,” defined as the value of all projected future expenditures minus the value of all projected future receipts using a reasonable discount rate.
What difference does the fiscal gap approach make in our understanding of the true federal debt? CBO tells us that the national debt was a little less than $13 trillion in 2014. But the fiscal gap in that year as calculated by Kotlikoff was $210 trillion, more than 16 times larger than the debt estimated by CBO and already judged, by CBO and many others, to be unsustainable. If a $13 billion gap is unsustainable, what term should we apply to a $210 trillion gap? Kotlikoff also calculates that the fiscal gap is equal to about 58 percent of the combined value of all future revenue. Thus, we would need to reduce spending or increase taxes by enough to fill that 58 percent gap if we wanted to put the federal budget on a path to solvency that balances the interests of those now receiving benefits and those who hope to receive benefits in the future.
Read the full report here.
In a rarely-used procedure, members of the House GOP are preparing to face off directly over funding for the nation’s largest chunk of discretionary spending.
The move is called called “Queen of the Hill,” and it’s hardly ever used on Capitol Hill. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) will allow one vote on Rep. Tom Price’s (R-Ga.) Budget Committee’s spending plan, which infuriated defense-minded lawmakers who thought it underfunded the Pentagon.
They’ll also allow a vote on a nearly identical budget, which includes language to increase defense spending. Whichever plan gets the most votes will become the House GOP’s budget.
Recall that the original budget hardly “cut” Pentagon spending meaningfully — instead, it relied upon a nearly $95 billion slush fund to keep the budget caps, technically. The fact that a large contingency of the House (in both parties) want to hike spending even more is disappointing to say the least.