Incoming Budget chairman punches back over rules change

Incoming House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on New Year's Eve pushed back against Democrats who this week criticized the GOP for seeking to give him rare powers over the 2011 budget to advance deep cuts to discretionary spending.

A proposed House rule to be debated Jan. 5 would allow the Budget Committee chairman to set spending ceilings for 2011 without a vote by the full House. By approving the rules package, the House would give authority to the new Budget panel chairman to set budget ceilings at a later time and his decision would not be subject to an up-or-down vote on the floor.

This week, the offices of incoming House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and incoming Budget Committee ranking member Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said the rule would give too much power to Ryan and flies in the face of GOP promises of transparency.

Ryan responded that the rule is necessary because Democrats failed to pass a budget resolution last year.

“The Federal government’s deep fiscal hole is the result of bipartisan failures over the years. Yet this past year, House Democrats oversaw an unprecedented breakdown in the budget process. After an explosion in spending and two consecutive years of trillion dollar deficits, House Democrats failed to even propose a budget for the current fiscal year -- the first time this has happened since 1974, when the modern congressional budget process was established,” he said in an emailed statement.


“It now falls to the 112th Congress to develop a budget for the U.S. government, yet there is currently no budget enforcement mechanism to account for taxpayer dollars. Without a budget, the Federal government will continue to operate with no priorities and no restraints, while our fiscal and economic challenges continue to mount,” he said.

Ryan noted that the budget authority he would be granted had been granted to the chairman of the committee in the 1990s as well.

As expected, Ryan said that he will use the power to try to bring non-security spending levels back to 2008 levels, a major campaign plank in the GOP's “Pledge to America.” He will set the spending ceiling after the Congressional Budget Office releases its budget baseline estimates and projections and the end of January, he said.

“When we get those projections, as outlined in the House Republicans’ Pledge to America, I plan to file a discretionary spending limit that would take non-security spending back to its pre-bailout, pre-stimulus spending levels. Other Federal spending and revenue levels will be established as outlined in the Congressional Budget Office’s forthcoming baseline, with the adjustments provided in the Rules package to prevent taxes from rising and to make possible a repeal of the costly health care overhaul,” he said.

“Voters in November soundly rejected the relentless spending and fiscal malpractice of the past Congress. Getting a grip on this year's spending is only the first step in addressing our long term budget challenges -- but it's a step we must take, and we must take it now," he added.