House votes to end automatic budget hikes

A measure passed by the House on Tuesday would prevent the Congressional Budget Office from assuming annual inflation increases when calculating new budget baselines.

The Baseline Reform Act, H.R. 1871, passed 230-185, and with the support of just seven Democrats. It's the third and last budget process reform bill under consideration as the House prepares to consider the GOP 2015 budget.

ADVERTISEMENT
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), the ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee, said during floor debate that the proposal would not adhere to fiscal realities.

"What this bill attempts to do is to legislate away inflation," Van Hollen said. "Gee, that would be so nice if we could pass a law and inflation would go away."

New York Democrat Tim Bishop said prohibiting the inflation adjustments would understate future budget needs and result in underfunded programs. The bill also requires 10-year budget projections to be based on non-inflation adjusted budgets.

"By eliminating inflation adjustments and freezing the baseline over 10 years, the baseline would be a benchmark that builds in real and deep cuts in federal programs," Bishop said.

But Republicans said the change would make budget baselines more accountable, and prevent automatic increases at a time when annual budget deficits are north of $500 billion, and expected to rise again in the coming years.

"What we're saying is, take away the smoke and mirrors, start from scratch, and then make informed decisions from there," said House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).

Rep. Rob Woodall (R-Ga.), the bill's sponsor, said it would help lead to reducing the deficit.

"Absolutely inflation is not going to go away, but we have to make tough choices," Woodall said.

The White House has said it opposes the bill, and it is not expected to be taken up in the Senate.

"Under the Baseline Reform Act, the baseline would instead assume a steady deterioration in programs' purchasing power," Office of Management and Budget Spokesman Steve Posner said this week.