Pre-Game: Budget Hypocrisy

Yesterday, two Senate chairman – Kent Conrad (D-ND) and Daniel Akaka (D-HI) – launched a preemptive assault on the soon-to-be-released House budget, drafted by Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI). CQ reports:

Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad and Appropriations Chairman Daniel K. Inouye, acting ahead of a House Republican action to lower discretionary spending below the level agreed to last year, on Monday urged GOP leaders to stick to the level set in a pact with the White House.

In a letter to House Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio and Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia, they said if the House GOP adopts lower spending levels it would delay action on this year’s appropriations bills and represent “a breach of faith that will make it more difficult to negotiate future agreements.”

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., plans to unveil a budget on Tuesday with a fiscal 2013 discretionary spending limit of $1.028 trillion, $19 billion less than the $1.047 trillion limit in the debt limit law (PL 112-25).

GOP leaders argue the discretionary spending limits in the law are upper limits, or caps, rather than set spending allocations.

Their outrage is selective at best and pure partisan politics at worst.   As Politico reported last week, President Obama’s budget nudged under the caps established by the Budget Control Act (BCA):

Indeed, in the case of discretionary appropriations, CBO scores the president as coming in about $4 billion under the $1.047 trillion target set by the Budget Control Act last summer.

There was no outrage from Senators Conrad and Akaka then, perhaps because of a massive budget gimmick involving highway funding.  In fact, Senator Conrad said the President’s budget did not go far enough:

We will need to do more to put the nation on a sustainable long-term fiscal path.

But in his 7+ years as Budget Chairman, Senator Conrad has never presented a truly “sustainable long-term fiscal path.” And his colleague Senator Akaka unabashedly longs for the days of earmarking.  On top of it all, both men voted in favor of a government funding bill last December that exceeded the caps established by the BCA, thanks to a disaster spending gimmick.

There is much to be done to turn our nation around, but two men crying foul yesterday do not have the answers.

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