December 9, 2013

Spending Deal Near

A budget deal is in the works but will Republicans cave on the sequester?

House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) and his Senate counterpart Patty Murray (D-WA) appear close to working out a budget proposal to meet the Jan. 15 deadline for a new bill. Details are sketchy at this point, making many Republicans nervous, but word is already out that Ryan and Murray have agreed to raise spending above sequestration levels. The remaining questions are the level of increase and the combination of fees and cuts in other programs to offset the uptick.

Word is that the discretionary spending level will probably land somewhere between $967 billion, the current sequester level, and Senate Democrats’ proposed $1.058 trillion – more than the previously planned $986 billion. Unfortunately, it seems that Ryan is getting almost nothing in return for caving on the sequester because any reforms to entitlements will be so minor as to not qualify for the word “reform,” and they happen “down the road” instead of now. In addition, it appears Democrats may win an extension of unemployment benefits and increases in various taxes like airport-security fees. Didn’t we just get saddled with a $600 million tax increase on Jan. 1 of this past year?

Also, for the record, let history note that the sequester never turned into the doomsday scenario that Barack Obama so shamelessly predicted. Airports didn’t close, children didn’t go unfed and Christmas is still scheduled for Dec. 25. And let us never forget that it was his idea in the first place. Still, some Republicans are intent on unwinding automatic defense cuts, as those cuts arguably hindered the Pentagon’s ability to maintain force levels around the world. Not that the sequester stopped Obama from jetting around on Air Force One as he cancelled military flyovers and the like to make cuts as painful and annoying as possible.

The bottom line, however, is that no budget deal under consideration will actually address the core problem: The federal government spends far too much money. And if Republicans can’t maintain the pittance that is the sequester, we’re in very deep trouble.

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