Biggest Stories of 2013: The Republican Surrender Act of 2013

Throughout New Year’s Eve, we’ll be going through the 10 biggest political stories of 2013 as selected by United Liberty’s contributors. Don’t forget to chime in on the biggest stories of the year on our Facebook page.

Republicans won a hard fought debt ceiling battle in 2011, getting $1.2 trillion in reductions in spending over the course of 10 years. The spending cuts were hailed by supporters as one of the biggest achievements for fiscal conservatives in several years.

The Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA) passed both the House of Representatives and Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support, including votes from Pelosi and Reid, and was signed into law by President Barack Obama.

But before those bipartisan cuts even kicked in, Republicans began retreating from them, and, in the process, blew their messaging on the need for lower spending and deficit reduction. Why? They wanted to restore some of the defense spending cuts mandated by the BCA, because they wanted to protect crony contractors from cutbacks.

Desperate to avoid another government shutdown and keep Republicans’ eyes on the 2014 mid-term election, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) brokered a deal with Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-WA) that broke through some of the gridlock that has consumed Congress in recent years. But they did so at a very real cost to taxpayers.

This budget deal — referred to in this space as the “Republican Surrender Act of 2013” — rolled back $63 billion of spending cuts agreed upon through the bipartisan Budget Control Act.

The agreement will purportedly achieve the $23 billion in purported deficit reduction through increased fees on airline passengers and various changes to minor government programs and larger contributions from federal employees to their pensions. The rollback in the sequester is put on the backend of the 10-year budget window.

That latter point is a problem since future Congresses aren’t bound to budget or spending agreements made by their predecessors (see the Budget Control Act of 2011).  What’s more, the deficit reduction this deal brings is, frankly, gimmicky.

It raises taxes, no matter how supporters want to spin. The other costs savings measures, such as mandating some agencies not to spend excess money from accounts, should have been done anyway. The federal pension reforms and whatever costs savings are achieved through that shouldn’t be used to finance new spending, which is, unfortunately, what this deal does.

This budget framework also provides a framework for future concessions on sequester spending. Assume Republicans don’t take the Senate in 2014, House Republicans will face the same doomsday type rhetoric again and again until the much-needed spending cuts mandated by the Budget Control Act are rendered meaningless.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) also lashed out at conservative groups that opposed the budget deal. He derided the groups for opposing the deal before it was officially announced and told reporters that they had “lost all credibility.” The Wall Street Journal noted that Boehner’s team threatened Republicans who were thinking about against the budget deal with the loss of coveted committee assignments.

In the end, the willingness to make a deal and sell out taxpayers won out as both the chambers of Congress easily passed the budget deal, which was promptly signed by President Obama. Republicans are talking tough about getting something in exchange for raising the debt ceiling, but given there surrender on the sequester, no one should take them seriously.

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