House Republicans may be moving ahead with a Continuing Resolution (CR) that defunds ObamaCare, but the measure they’re pushing will fund the government above levels set by the Budget Control Act of 2011.
The Budget Control Act (BCA) set in place $1.2 trillion in spending cuts over the next 10 years, which became known as the sequester. Those cuts, which are ultimately cuts to the rate of spending growth, went into effect in March after a temporary delay at the beginning of the year. Half of the cuts were applied to domestic programs, the other half to defense.
Tad DeHaven, a budget analyst at the Cato Institute, noted last week that the original CR backed by House Republican leadership would have spent $988 billion in FY 2014, rough $20 billion above the levels set by the BCA.
“The Congressional Budget Office’s score of the House Republican CR shows that defense is funded at $20 billion above the sequestration-included cap for fiscal 2014,” wrote DeHaven. “However, non-defense funding is actually $1 billion below it. Thus, it seems clear that the CR was intentionally written to force the sequestration-defense issue, which would kick-in in January.”
The BCA set the level for spending level for FY 2014 at $967 billion. The latest CR proposed by House Republicans, which defunds ObamaCare, would spend $986 billion, funding the government until December 15.
Though most members of Congress are focused on funding the federal government for another year, there is another battle on the horizon — raising the federal debt ceiling, which will be reached mid-next month.
House Republicans want some sort of a trade off from the White House to raise the debt ceiling, currently at $16.7 trillion, either further spending cuts or concessions on ObamaCare, and are tossing around the idea of holding a clean vote on the measure to show that there isn’t support for it inside the chamber. The White House, however, isn’t interested in having a debate on raising the debt ceiling.
Disagreement on how to approach the issue could lead to a stalemate similar to what the country saw in 2011 when Congress passed the Budget Control Act, a compromise between the Congress and the White House that led to the sequester.
But two new polls show that Americans are opposed to raising the debt ceiling.
NBC News and the Wall Street Journal released a poll at the end of last week showing that a plurality of Americans oppose raising the debt limit, at 44/22.
Though opposition is strong, NBC News notes that President Obama will be able to frame the debate over the issue, giving him an advantage over House Republicans who have frequently been unable to frame a coherent message.
Despite initially expressing skepticism, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) announced on Tuesday that they would back President Barack Obama’s planned military intervention in Syria when it comes up for a vote.
The logic in the decision is hard to understand, especially since their is tepid support at best for intervention inside the House Republican Conference. But now we know why Boehner and Cantor are on board. They want leverage on the Continuing Resolution and debt ceiling battles looming on the horizon, as RedState reported yesterday.
“Was just told by a K Streeter [with] ties to Boehner that Boehner views war approval as giving GOP leverage in CR/debt limit negotiations,” tweeted Sean Davis, a former advisor to Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK).
“According to this K Streeter, Boehner thinks Obama will have less ability to attack House GOP for obstruction post-war approval,” he added. “Basically: We’ll scratch Obama’s back on this and we’ll expect Obama to do the same for us in the coming weeks/months.”
The Treasury Department announced on Monday that the $16.7 trillion debt limit will be reached in mid-October, meaning that Congress will once again have wade into the tumultuous politics that come with the issue.
House Republicans may hold a “clean vote” on the debt ceiling to show that there isn’t support for raising the borrowing limit without some sort of trade off, either further spending cuts or a showdown on ObamaCare. It could lead to a stalemate similar to what we saw in 2011 when Congress passed the Budget Control Act, a compromise between the Congress and the White House that led to the sequester.
Record budgets deficits that President Obama has overseen and a growing national debt are something about which Americans should be concerned. But the focus on the debt ceiling misses the larger point — specifically entitlement spending.
Veronique de Rugy, a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center, recently took a look at various estimates of the true cost of the national debt, including unfunded liabilities, and what she found is nothing short of speechless:
Fiscal policy discussions generally focus on the current year’s budget numbers: $1.0 trillion budget deficit and $16.0 trillion national debt.
As alarming as these numbers are, they fail to account for the far greater fiscal challenges of unfunded liabilities. Here is some key evidence from various studies:
With Congress set to return to Washington in just under two weeks, Republicans are incredibly divided on how to deal with ObamaCare in the upcoming Continuing Resolution to keep the government funded for another year.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rep. Tom Graves (R-GA) have been urging members of both chambers to sign onto their push to defund ObamaCare. Basically, this means that Congress would withhold statutory funding for the 2010 healthcare law while funding the rest of the government. But the idea has faced a substantial amount of opposition from Republican politicians and pundits who feel that this maneuver would led to a government shutdown, a prospect that they believe will be blamed the GOP.
Some 80 Republicans have signed on to a letter urging House leadership to back the effort, though only 14 Republican senators have signed the letter in the upper chamber. Cruz acknowledged over the weekend that the effort to defund ObamaCare doesn’t have enough votes to succeed and noted that it would take a “grassroots tsunami” to push it through Congress.
The merits of defunding ObamaCare are well understood. This is a destructive law that is greatly influencing the rise in health insurance premiums and hurting job growth as employers resort to hiring mostly part-time workers to skirt the laws’ costly mandates.
While Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has become a tool for his Democratic colleagues to move the budget into conference committee, Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) continue to express there concerns that these negotiations will be used for a stealth debt ceiling increase.
The issue at hand is that that a conference report could be passed by a majority of the chamber, bypassing a filibuster, as per Senate rules. Sneaking through a debt limit hike, as part of a budget agreement that only requires a majority, is objectionable to these members. And they’re right.
During a speech from the floor on Thursday, Lee explained why he and several other fiscal conservatives in the Senate want assurances from leaders that a debt ceiling hike won’t be part of the conference report on the budget.
“For sixty-one days, several of my colleagues and I have objected to the majority’s request for unanimous consent to circumvent regular order to go to conference with the House on the budget,” said Lee. “They want permission to skip a few steps in the process, and jump straight to the closed-door back-room meetings.”
“There, senior negotiators of the House and Senate will be free to wait until a convenient, artificial deadline and ram through their compromise – un-amended, un-debated and mostly un-read,” he continued. “And with the country backed up against another economic ‘cliff’ crisis, we are concerned they will exploit that opportunity to sneak a debt-limit increase into the budget.”
“We think that’s inappropriate,” he added.
There has been some squabbling in the Senate over the appointment of members to a conference committee with the House try to iron out the differences between the chambers over their separate version of the FY 2014 budget. Conservative members of the Senate — led by Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Rand Paul (R-KY), and Mike Lee (R-UT) — have objected to the appointment of conferees over concern that a budget agreement would be used for a backdoor national debt increase.
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) once again attacked these fiscal conservatives. “What we’re saying here on this side of the aisle is we don’t trust our colleagues on the other side of the Capitol who are in the majority,” said McCain, according to Bloomberg.
Cruz responded to McCain yesterday on the floor of the Senate, noting that the fiscal mess in which the United States finds itself is the creation of both parties.
“Madam President, [McCain] urged the body to trust the Republicans,” said Cruz. “Let me be clear — I don’t trust the Republicans. And I don’t trust the Democrats. And I think a whole lot of Americans likewise don’t trust the Republicans and the Democrats, because it is leadership in both parties that has gotten us in this mess.”
“You know, my wife and I have two little girls at home, they’re 5 and 2. When Caroline was born, our national debt was $10 trillion,” he noted. “Today, it’s nearly $17 trillion. In her short five years of life, the national debt has grown by over 60%. Madame President, what we are doing to our kids and grandkids, I think, is immoral.”
Watch the full video of Cruz’s response to McCain below:
With another debt ceiling fight potentially brewing, the House of Representatives passed the Full Faith and Credit Act, sponsored by Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA), which would require the Treasury Department to prioritize debt service and Social Security payments to keep the United States’ credit rating intact:
The House on Thursday passed legislation that would allow the government to borrow money above the debt ceiling, but only to service U.S. bondholders and make payments related to the Social Security Trust Fund.
The Full Faith and Credit Act, H.R. 807, was passed in a 221-207 vote that saw all but eight Republicans favor the bill, and every Democrat oppose it.
Republicans said the bill creates a necessary option for the government to extend its borrowing ability in the event that it bumps up against the debt ceiling. Republicans and Democrats are expected to begin talks this month on increasing the debt limit.
You can view the roll call vote here.
President Obama, who has pledged a veto should it pass the Senate, Democrats have attacked the measure because it would take one of their favorite talking points off the table. President Obama has frequently claimed during debt ceiling fights that Social Security checks could be held up if the statutory national debt limit is not raised.
The new narrative being pushed by the media is that President Barack Obama’s new budget is an olive branch of sorts to congressional Republicans. Politico ran with the headline, “President Obama’s risky ‘goodwill’ gambit,” which highlighted some of the proposed changes to Social Security.
The Associated Press noted the frustration from some on the Left in its piece, “Liberals balk at Obama’s 2nd term overtures to GOP,” which also focused on the proposed cuts to entitlement programs.
While it’s true that the only real measure of good news from the the White House’s budget is the changes to Social Security, there is absolutely nothing here in terms of compromise or reform. The White House has made that much clear by telling Politico — in a separate article from the one mentioned above, of course — that Republicans can take the Social Security changes in exchange for more $1 trillion in tax hikes or leave it:
And Gene Sperling, the director Obama’s National Economic Council, on Wednesday afternoon emphasized that the proposal is ”not an à la carte menu” for Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and congressional Republicans to choose what they like and discard the rest.
“You can’t decide to only pick out the concessions the president has made and not include the concessions from the Republican side that need to be part of a bipartisan deal that can pass both houses,” Sperling said.
Don’t mess with the White House’s messaging on the sequester. That’s essentially what Bob Woodward, the famous Washington Post journalist, was recently told by an Obama Administration official.
Woodward, who released a book last year about the events that led to the sequester, wrote last week that the spending cuts set to take place tomorrow were the White House’s idea and he has been making television appearances for several days now repeating that claim.
During an interview last night on CNN, Woodward told Wolf Bitlzer that he was willing to debate the sequester with someone from the White House. Biltzer explained, “We invited the White House to send someone here to debate this issue with you, and they declined.”
“Why? Why? Because it’s irrefutable — that’s exactly what happened,” Woodward flatly stated. Woodward then noted that he was getting some pushback, telling Bitlzer that a “very senior person” at the White House told him that he “will regret doing this.”
“It makes me very uncomfortable to have the White House telling reporters ‘you’re gonna regret’ doing something that you believe in,” Woodward explained.
While writing the editoral, Woodward apparently let the White House know what he was doing and he was met with resistance from Gene Sperling, a top economic aide, who raised his voice at the journalist.