Pelosi, Hoyer press for 'pay as you go' budget

Pelosi, Hoyer press for 'pay as you go' budget
© Greg Nash

House Democrats are amplifying their push for pay-as-you-go rules to govern the coming spending debate.

The Democrats are accusing the Republicans of budget hypocrisy for urging fiscal responsibility while simultaneously promoting steep tax cuts, which they say would slash revenues and increase deficit spending.

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They're calling for the return of so-called "pay-go" rules, which would require lawmakers to offset the cost of any new budget item — spending provisions and tax cuts alike — that would otherwise increase the federal deficit. 

"The long-endangered Republican Deficit Hawk is now extinct," Rep. Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), the Democratic leader, wrote Tuesday in a New York Times op-ed

The Democrats are especially critical of the tax cuts passed in December, which accompanied a year-end omnibus spending proposal. Almost 80 Democrats had supported that tax bill, but Pelosi and other Democratic leaders did not, and they're now warning that the $622 billion package will lead to $800 billion in deficit spending over a decade — a figure that swells to $2 trillion over 20 years.

They're calling on GOP leaders to adopt the pay-go rules as part of this year's budget to prevent those hikes from materializing. 

"As House Republicans prepare to leave for two weeks of recess without passing a budget for next year, the cost of this tax package is casting a long shadow over America’s future, threatening to crowd out essential investments for hard-working American families," Pelosi wrote. 

Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), the minority whip, sounded a similar message on Tuesday, warning that the Republicans' 2017 budget bill — passed by the House Budget Committee last week on partisan lines — would expand deficit spending further.

"It continues to rely on discredited theory that tax cuts will pay for themselves," Hoyer told reporters in the Capitol. "They haven't."

The comments arrive as House GOP leaders are scrambling to find the 218 GOP votes needed to pass their budget bill on the House floor. The committee proposal is opposed by a number of conservative Republicans who disapprove of the $1.07 trillion it authorizes for the fiscal year. The critics want that figure cut down at least to the $1.03 trillion number set by the 2011 Budget Control Act.  

Speaker Paul RyanPaul RyanGOP lawmaker: Time to work with Dems on healthcare Pence: Trump 'won't rest' until ObamaCare repealed Hannity: Healthcare bill 'not President Trump's failure' MORE (R-Wis.) said Tuesday that GOP leaders are "still having that family conversation" about a path forward.

"We want to do a budget. That's very clear," Ryan said during a press briefing in the Capitol. "The question is, do we have the votes to pass a budget? And that's the conversation we're having with our members." 

It's hardly the first time the Democrats have used the GOP budget as a messaging weapon, and the results have been mixed. In 2010, they attacked the budget bill written by Ryan, who was then Budget Committee chairman, only to lose 63 seats and the House gavel. 

They had more luck with the strategy in the 2012 presidential cycle, picking up eight House seats — far shy of the number needed to win back the chamber, but more than pundits anticipated.

In 2014 they slipped once more, losing 13 seats and giving the Republicans their largest House majority since the Hoover administration. 

Still, they're not giving up on their budget messaging strategy, hoping instead to portray Democrats as the party of fiscal responsibility. 

Pelosi noted that President George W. Bush inherited a projected surplus of $5.6 trillion over a decade when he took office in 2001. Eight years later, after a series of tax cuts and two wars that weren't paid for, President Obama inherited a $1.2 trillion deficit in 2009 alone.

"To contain and reduce the national debt, we must return to a simple rule called pay as you go," Pelosi wrote Tuesday. "We can restore fairness to the tax code, delivering reforms that support bigger paychecks and better infrastructure for the American people, even as we honor basic fiscal realities."