House bill would make Obama cite taxpayer share of budget deficit

The House on Tuesday approved legislation that would require the president to estimate the cost of budget deficits per taxpayer whenever he submits a budget that anticipates deficits.

Members approved the bill, H.R. 668, in a 392-28 vote in which every Republican supported it, and only 28 Democrats voted against it. One Democrat voted "present," Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.).

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Republicans said the bill is needed to help remind Washington that running up huge annual deficits adds to the $16.6 trillion debt, which is something taxpayers will have to pay off sometime in the future.

"This bill is based on one simple principle: that each hard-working American taxpayer deserves to know how much the deficit costs them each year," Rep. Luke Messer (R-Ind.) said.

"This requirement would be a powerful reminder to the president and Congress that our decisions have real-world consequences for hard-working taxpayers," he added. "It's long past time to hold Washington accountable for its wasteful spending."

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) spoke in support of the bill and agreed with the need to remind Congress about the massive debt the government is piling up.

"There are some in this body that would like to turn the debt clocks off in the hearing rooms," she said. "They just want to ignore it, and supposedly it would go away and we wouldn't have to talk about it."

During the brief debate, Democrats downplayed the bill and mocked it as a political statement on the part of Republicans. House Budget Committee ranking member Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) responded to Blackburn by arguing that the bill only requires a math calculation, and does not actually reduce the deficit.

"Just in case anyone's confused, it does nothing to reduce the deficit and the debt," he said. He also said Democrats have "no objection" to requiring what amounts to be one extra math calculation as part of the budget.

Freshman Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) was more critical, and called the bill a "joke" that wastes Congress's time.

"It doesn't take a bill to do this, it just takes a calculator," he said of the bill. "Can't they do this arithmetic problem on their own?"

Takano did the calculation on the House floor, and said the anticipated $845 billion deficit this year divided by 158 million taxpayers amounts to about $5,300 per taxpayer.

Democrats again used the debate to argue in favor of bringing up a Democratic bill to replace the $85 billion sequester that took effect last week. But Republicans again turned away this request in a procedural vote.

House passage of the bill sends it to the Senate, which may not consider it at all and has not indicated what its plans are.

Also Tuesday, the House approved H.R. 338, the Stop Tobacco Smuggling in the Territories Act. This bill would require the enforcement of U.S. anti-cigarette smuggling laws in the U.S.-controlled territories.

The House passed this bill 421-5; the only "no" votes came from Republicans.