A Budget Deal That Breaks Budget Control Act Caps is the Wrong Approach

Blog Articles · Dec 8, 2013 · Budget and Spending

House and Senate budget negotiators are nearing an agreement on a budget deal, but it may prove to be one that is not agreeable to conservatives or to the taxpayers footing the bill for out-of-control government spending.

The 2011 Budget Control Act (BCA), though imperfect, was effective in cutting discretionary spending, and a budget that breaks the caps set by it is unacceptable. Yet, there is mounting pressure from appropriators to replace part of automatic spending cuts put in place by the BCA. Meanwhile, many Democrats are seeking to reverse the sequester on their "favored domestic programs," like transportation, housing and the ineffective Head Start program.

The Wall Street Journal notes: (sub. req.d):

Republicans would be wiser to stick to the Budget and Control Act's spending caps, which have been highly effective in controlling discretionary spending. Federal outlays declined to $3.45 trillion and 20.8% of GDP in fiscal 2013 from $3.6 trillion and 24.1% of GDP in 2011. In 2010 discretionary spending peaked at 9.4% of GDP, but in 2013 it was down to 7.6% and in 2014 will fall to 7%. A testament to the success of the caps is that nearly every Democrat and spending lobby in Washington is desperate to get rid of them.

They also explain that the BCA caps merely require a slower increase in spending than was required by President Obama's "inflated spending baselines from [his] first two years in office."

Politico identified others who would support the deal, and conservatives are conspicuously missing from the list:

[House GOP leaders] hope to build a broad coalition to help pass any plan: appropriators, defense hawks, leadership, middle-of-the-road Republicans and a good number of Democrats.

The Heritage Foundation laid out principles for the budget conference, and among them was the idea that lawmakers should stick to the BCA:

  • Leave Tax Reform on Its Own Course
  • Address Future Debt
  • Stick to the Budget Control Act
  • Enforce Lower Levels of Spending
  • Do Not Play Inside-the-Beltway Games

It remains to be seen whether lawmakers will heed this advice. But whether or not they do, increasing spending is not their sole motivator in these budget negotiations - they're also seeking to pave the way for immigration reform, which these days is Washington code for amnesty.

A fiscal deal, Democrats say, could also give the White House an opening to enact at least one major domestic policy measure next year - like an immigration overhaul - if Congress is not consumed with yet another fiscal crisis.

Taxpayers should hold onto their wallets, because this budget deal may be harmful in the short term by undoing spending cuts, and in the long term by paving the way for a costly amnesty bill.

Related links:

Principles for the Budget Conference
Why Congress Needs a New Budget Process
Heritage Action on Emerging Ryan-Murray Budget Deal