No sign of compromise as House Budget hears latest CBO warning

The House Budget Committee engaged in what has now become a firmly entrenched habit on Wednesday.

Members listened to dire warnings of fiscal calamity from Congressional Budget Office Director Doug Elmendorf and then showed Americans watching on television that they are in no way able to negotiate a solution to the problem.

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Elmendorf was on Capitol Hill this time to present the CBO’s 2012 long-term debt forecast. Under the most likely scenario, in which Congress does not raise taxes or cut spending, the national debt held by the public reaches twice the size of the entire economy by 2037.

In the face of this reality, an implacable fiscal stalemate continues to linger over Congress.

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) used the occasion to tout his own budget, which partially privatizes Medicare and block grants Medicaid and food stamps in order to slash spending, without raising any taxes.

“CBO, like all non-partisan experts, has again warned of delay in solving our fiscal problems. Unfortunately, the administration has no definitive solution to the problem we face, but merely obstruction to those who do put forth good-faith solutions. The Senate, of course, hasn’t passed a budget in more than three years,” Ryan said. “House Republicans refuse to accept the European-style debt crisis, which promises harsh austerity. We reject the empty promises and continued inaction in the face of a crisis.”

Ranking member Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) touted the Democratic budget alternative, which cuts tax breaks while relying on President Obama’s healthcare reform law to control healthcare spending. He called for a similar mix of taxes and spending cuts.

“Unfortunately, we have yet to find a willing partner in our Republican colleagues. This is evidenced by Speaker [John] Boehner’s [(R-Ohio)] refusal to take up the president’s jobs bill, the insistence on holding tax relief for 99 percent hostage to tax breaks for the top 1 percent, and the Speaker’s threat to default on the obligations of the United States. if we don’t adopt the European-style austerity approach to the budget,” Van Hollen said.

Van Hollen and Ryan are personal friends and have collaborated on budget process reform. So far neither is showing any sign of backing down from positions that leave the U.S. government paralyzed in the face of mounting debt and a weakening economy.