The Best of the Forge
Increases spending in the short term
The deal increases spending in the next two years by $63 billion above current law. Current law allows for discretionary spending to be $967 billion in FY14 and $995 billion in FY15. This bill raises that by $45 billion in FY14 (to $1.012 trillion) and $18 billion in FY15 ($1.014 trillion).
In 2011, the Budget Control Act (BCA) was enacted to raise the debt limit by $2.4 trillion. Proponents of the law claimed that the increase would be paid for “dollar for dollar” with spending cuts in future years. These cuts would be enforced with spending caps and a sequester (an across-the-board cut if a spending cap was breached). One reason that many conservatives opposed the BCA was that Congress has historically spent at its will and shifted the pain of proposed cuts into future years, knowing the poor chances of reversing cuts later on. This pattern of behavior is again on display in the Ryan-Murray deal.
Today, as part of the Ryan-Murray budget deal, the House will be voting on the “Pathway to SGR Reform Act of 2013,” which extends a number of expiring Medicare provisions, but its main purpose is to prevent the 24% reimbursement cut for physicians serving Medicare patients scheduled to occur next year.
These so-called “doc fixes” have been commonplace in Congress since 2003, when the provider cuts from the Balanced Budget Act of1997 first prompted Congress to act to prevent payment cuts for doctors (for more on the Sustainable Growth Rate, aka the SGR, see this Backgrounder from the Heritage Foundation). However, these temporary measures are usually fully paid for using legitimate savings elsewhere in the Medicare program.
One of the questions that has arisen since Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV)9% – with the help of all but three of his party’s senators – invoked the nuclear option to change the Senate’s rules (essentially eliminating the filibuster for nominations) is what the Senate minority (in this case, Republicans) can do about it.
There are a number of parliamentary maneuvers in the Senate rules that would allow the minority to make Reid’s majority pay a heavy price for his elimination of minority rights and the curtailment of debate in the country’s formerly most deliberative body. Those parliamentary rules allow even a minority to virtually shutdown the Senate.
Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) kicked off her reelection campaign with a TV ad boasting of her bill that would “fix” Obamacare, the “Keeping the Affordable Care Act Promise Act.” But is this really something to be proud of?
She’s onto something: Americans are dissatisfied with Obamacare. She’s probably read the polls recently, like the Gallup poll that indicates 52 percent of Americans want Congress to scale back or repeal Obamacare entirely. Or perhaps she saw the poll this past August which showed 62 percent of Louisiana voters opposed Obamacare.