Last week, Tea Party Patriots hammered Senate Democrats for spending above the levels required by sequestration in their budget. Later in the week, however, House Republicans showed their own lack of fiscal discipline when it came to sequestration. From Talking Points Memo’s Brian Beutler:
Like all recent GOP budgets, this year’s proposes lots of spending on defense and security, at the expense of all other programs. Specifically, it sets the total pool of discretionary dollars at sequestration levels, then funnels money from thinly stretched domestic departments (like Transportation and HUD) to the Pentagon and a few other agencies. But that’s all the budget says. It doesn’t say how to allocate the dollars, nor does it grapple in any way with the possibility that cutting domestic spending so profoundly might be unworkable…
… Today’s Transportation/HUD failure confirms that suspicion. Republicans don’t control government. But ahead of the deadline for funding it, their plan was to proceed as if the Ryan budget was binding, and pass spending bills to actualize it — to stake out a bargaining position with the Senate at the right-most end of the possible.
But they can’t do it. It turns out that when you draft bills enumerating all the specific cuts required to comply with the budget’s parameters, they don’t come anywhere close to having enough political support to pass. Even in the GOP House. Slash community development block grants by 50 percent, and you don’t just lose the Democrats, you lose a lot of Republicans who care about their districts. Combine that with nihilist defectors who won’t vote for any appropriations unless they force the President to sign an Obamacare repeal bill at a bonfire ceremony on the House floor, and suddenly you’re nowhere near 218.
Yes, the House can pass things like the defense appropriations bill. But only because they’ve plundered other programs to provide the Pentagon with consensus-level funding. They can’t fund most of the rest of the government without violating the Ryan budget.
Brad Plumer is more succinct, but comes to the same conclusion:
It’s worth taking a step back to understand the position House Republicans had put themselves in. Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget had tried to keep the sequester’s discretionary spending level of $967 billion. But they wanted to give more of that money to defense, which necessitated even deeper cuts to domestic spending. That was fine in the abstract. But the THUD bill was one of the first times they had to get specific.
Simply put, the House GOP has only pretended it was fiscally conservative for the last several years. On the one hand, they want lots of spending for the Defense Department. But given the goals of the House budget proposal and the realities of sequestration, this forces other departments to bear the brunt of spending reductions in cuts. This combination forced the House to pull its transportation and housing bill from the floor because the cuts weren’t deep enough for actual fiscal conservatives, and far too much for most of the rest of the House Republican Party.
Over in the Senate, however, Republicans held strong against the Senate’s transportation and housing bill, which spent well above the levels in the House budget. Five Republicans who supported the bill in committee ended up opposing it.
This leaves Washington in quite the predicament. Many Republicans wants more spending than the House budget allows, and more than sequestration allows. However, they can’t go home to their constituents and tell them this. Meanwhile, Senate Democrats want to spend well above what even most big-spending Republicans support.
As this mess continues, know one thing: Budget busting spenders in both parties will blame Tea Party activists and Tea Party-minded politicians for “irresponsible policy.” However, it’s because of you that Washington isn’t continuing to spend us into oblivion at the same rate of speed.
They can thank us later.