GOP scrambles to regain fiscal credibility with House budget

GOP scrambles to regain fiscal credibility with House budget

Six months after passing a tax bill that is projected to blow a $1.9 trillion hole in the deficit, Republicans on the House Budget Committee are scrambling to regain fiscal credibility with their 2019 spending plan. 

The plan would cut over $8 trillion in spending over the course of a decade, according to estimates from the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, including $5.4 trillion in mandatory spending. 

“When you’re asked what keeps you up at night, there is nothing that weighs more heavily on me than our fiscal situation,” committee member Rep. Jodey ArringtonJodey Cook ArringtonRepublicans boot Francis Rooney from GOP Steering Committee House GOP lawmakers urge Senate to confirm Vought GOP lawmaker boasts 'overwhelming bipartisan support' for USMCA trade deal MORE (R-Texas) said this week. 

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Committee Chairman Steve WomackStephen (Steve) Allen WomackEx-CBO director calls for more than trillion in coronavirus stimulus spending Overnight Defense: Lawmakers tear into Pentagon over .8B for border wall | Dems offer bill to reverse Trump on wall funding | Senators urge UN to restore Iran sanctions Lawmakers trade insults over Trump budget cuts MORE (R-Ark.) called the nation’s debt “the largest looming shadow of doubt” on America’s future.

“The federal government is spending far more than it takes in, largely due to the unchecked growth of mandatory, or autopilot, spending,” he said. 

Republicans, who have traditionally defined themselves as the party of fiscal responsibility, have been playing defense on the issue. They’ve faced accusations from Democrats that they’ve mortgaged America’s future for the sake of the tax cut.

“They may be trying to, in some way, insulate themselves from attacks that they’ve blown a hole in the deficit through spending and taxes,” suggested Rep. John YarmuthJohn Allen YarmuthKaren Bass's star rises after leading police reform push Ex-CBO director calls for more than trillion in coronavirus stimulus spending Rep slams 'vulgar images' and 'racist words' that disrupted virtual youth anti-violence event MORE (D-Ky.), the ranking member on the committee.

Democrats say the GOP borrowed money to fund a tax cut for the wealthy, and is now targeting Medicare, Medicaid and other programs to lower deficits.

“83 percent of the advantage of the [tax] bill going to the top 1 percent, almost a trillion and a half dollars plus interest given to corporate America. And who pays the price? America's seniors,” House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiRussian bounties revive Trump-GOP foreign policy divide On The Money: Breaking down the June jobs report | The biggest threats facing the recovery | What will the next stimulus bill include? Military bases should not be renamed, we must move forward in the spirit of reconciliation MORE (D-Calif.) said at a recent press conference.

The tax law was not meant to cost more than $1.5 trillion, but in April the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated it would add nearly $1.9 trillion to the deficit instead.

Republicans such as retiring Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerCheney clashes with Trump Sessions-Tuberville Senate runoff heats up in Alabama GOP lawmakers stick to Trump amid new criticism MORE (Tenn.) did not take the news well.

“If it ends up costing what has been laid out here, it could well be one of the worst votes I’ve made,” Corker said at the time.

Despite a slew of projections showing that the tax law will add to the nation’s debts, some congressional Republicans along with Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinCongress eyes tighter restrictions on next round of small business help On The Money: Breaking down the June jobs report | The biggest threats facing the recovery | What will the next stimulus bill include? On The Money: Economy adds 4.8M jobs in June | Unemployment to average 6.1 percent through 2030: CBO | Mnuchin says no regrets on pushing to reopen MORE have insisted that the law will eventually pay for itself, or even end up reducing deficits.

“The tax cut itself, the bill, the small bill, may not pay for it, but the Republican agenda will, and I find this is very important to the budget discussion because no, because — this was never reported — but the federal coffers are overflowing,” Rep. David BratDavid Alan BratTed Cruz, AOC have it right on banning former members of Congress from becoming lobbyists Corey Stewart to lead pro-Trump super PAC The animating forces behind the Democratic Party are true, radical leftists MORE (R-Va.) said this week.

Earlier this month, the CBO estimated that in the first eight months of fiscal 2018, the budget deficit surged $97 billion in comparison with the same period in 2017, reaching $530 billion.

Brat accused the mainstream media of putting too much focus on the tax-cut law’s effect on the deficit, and not enough on the government-funding bill approved earlier this year as part of a bipartisan deal with the Trump administration. It added a combined $300 billion to spending caps for 2018 and 2019. The overall spending bill amounted to $1.3 trillion. 

“The Republican tax cuts got plenty of crap, when they end up being paid for,” Brat insisted.

CBO did warn that if spending continued on the path implied by the new budget caps and certain cuts in the tax law were not allowed to expire, deficits would explode to 7.1 percent of gross domestic product by 2028.

Despite the budget’s blueprint for slashing trillions in spending, watchdogs noted that in practice, it only called for $302 billion to be cut through budget reconciliation.

Rep. Tom McClintockThomas (Tom) Milller McClintockDemocrats start cracking down on masks for lawmakers Hoyer says Democratic leaders mulled requiring masks on House floor Mask-wearing becomes political even as some governors ease resistance MORE (R-Calif.) said that without teeth, the budget document’s deficit-reduction plans were no more than “happy thoughts and pixie dust.”

Others were skeptical as well.

“Most of these savings come from rosy economic assumptions or unreconciled and often unrealistic spending cuts,” said Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

“While we certainly support the effort to achieve substantial deficit reduction, Congress’s credibility is compromised given that tax cuts and spending hikes over this past year are responsible for $450 billion of next year’s nearly trillion-dollar deficit, and will add at least $2.4 trillion to the debt over a decade,” she added.

Yarmuth seemed to agree that the budget document would not be making a significant difference for the nation’s spending outlook one way or another, given that Congress had already signed onto new spending caps.

“It’s a moot point, essentially. Unless they can actually do reconciliation instructions, doing a budget resolution doesn’t mean anything,” he said.