The Senate will have a chance to vote on a budget that really balances
© Greg Nash

Once upon a time, there were fiscally conservative Republicans. It is said that when Republicans are out of power, they are the conservative party, but when Republicans are in the majority, there is no conservative party.

Virtually every Republican you meet travels home and tells the local Rotary how they are for balancing the budget.  Yet, in Washington, the majority of Republicans recently voted to bust the budget caps on spending, allowing a deficit this year that will exceed $1 trillion.

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This spring, the House of Representatives voted on a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution that requires the budget to balance in five years. How do we square such a vote with the fact that most of these same members also voted for a budget that never balances and for spending bills that bust the budget caps?

Hypocrisy is the only explanation. Republicans love the symbolism of balancing budgets. In the abstract, they fully believe themselves to be fiscally conservative, and when challenged they say: “But at least we’re not as bad as the Democrats.”  Maybe. It is true that few if any Democrats support budget caps or balanced budgets. But being less bad is hardly admirable.

 

This week, I will offer a redemptive vote for any Republicans - or Democrats - who want to really vote to balance the budget. Because the GOP leadership failed to produce a budget, and neither did the Democrats, the Senate rules require that my budget – The Penny Plan – will get a vote.

The Penny Plan Budget will restore the budget caps that Republicans and Democrats busted a few months ago, and it will then require that one penny out of every dollar spent be cut.  That’s right - a 1 percent cut in federal spending in each year for five years. This excludes Social Security, which is not part of the budget.

But these spending cuts could be 1 percent across the board, or they could be a higher percent cut to some programs, coupled with a lower percent cut to other programs. The total cut, though, must equal 1 percent. That’s why it’s called the Penny Plan.

Total on-budget spending is around $3 trillion. So a 1 percent cut would be about $30 billion. Where would the cuts come from?  Well, we could start with the nearly $50 billion we waste in Afghanistan.

We might also consider returning Education to the states and cutting billions of dollars from the federal Department of Education. (Remember when Republicans actually favored eliminating this department?)

Some have estimated that corporate welfare is over $100 billion a year. If Republicans wanted to regain credibility as fiscal conservatives, we could eliminate billions of dollars in corporate subsidies.

If Republicans through some extraordinary courage actually passed the Penny Plan Budget, I’ve included reconciliation language to allow a vast expansion of Health Savings Accounts. My instructions would allow a simple majority vote in the Senate to allow every American to have a Health Savings Account regardless of what health insurance plan they purchase. Expanding Health Savings Accounts would help to bring capitalism, competition, and lower prices to consumers.

Now I’m not holding my breath on Republicans developing a spine, but I am looking forward to the debate and to putting the entire Senate on the record on a budget that really balances.

Paul is the junior senator from Kentucky.