Allyne Caan / October 29, 2015

Another GOP Surrender on the Budget

Constitutionally enumerated powers used to mean something.

Once upon a time, the federal government didn’t use taxpayer dollars to pay for little Billy’s education, Suzie’s health care, Grandpa’s retirement or Merchant Joe’s solar panels. Constitutionally enumerated powers actually meant something in Washington.

Those days are long gone.

Wednesday afternoon, the House passed a monstrous budget deal that would increase federal spending by $80 billion over the next two years — even as our national debt already barrels toward $19 trillion. The deal is being labeled “bipartisan,” a clear indication Republicans did what they do best: turn over and play dead while in the majority and cave to Democrats’ demands to increase federal spending.

Indeed, the final vote on passage was 266-167, with Democrats providing most of the “yes” votes and 168 Republicans voting “no” while just 79 joined the Democrats. And this in a Republican-controlled House. But it was a parting shot from outgoing Speaker John Boehner.

The two-year deal, which will soon face a Senate vote and almost guaranteed passage, would essentially obliterate the gains from the 2011 Budget Control Act — which led to sequestration in 2013. The BCA, you’ll recall, capped discretionary spending through 2021. As the Heritage Foundation notes, the BCA “has shrunk the size of government more effectively than any budget tool in a generation,” dropping federal outlays from $3.603 trillion in 2011 to $3.506 trillion in 2014.

But restraint is apparently overrated. And as The New York Times notes, the Republican-shepherded deal “hands President Obama a clear victory,” allowing him “to break free of the spending shackles” of the BCA. Shackles schmackles! The deal given to Obama extends the borrowing limit through March 2017 — conveniently after the next presidential and congressional elections.

Even Obama claimed he could be “pretty happy” with the deal. We hope Boehner at least paused with Obama for a selfie on the golf course.

For his part, Boehner conceded the deal was “by no means perfect” but argued it’s “a good agreement for our troops, for taxpayers and for the American people.” If violating the Budget Control Act, hiking spending with only a promise of significant offsets far down the road, and piling even more debt on future generations represent a “good agreement,” his standards are abysmal.

This, ladies and gentleman, is why Boehner’s exodus from the speaker’s chair is cause for great joy.

Boehner claimed the budget deal was part of his effort to “clean out the barn” in advance of his departure, so incoming Speaker Paul Ryan could start with a clean slate. Yet a day after Ryan himself criticized the budget process — saying “it stinks” — and the deal as “not the way to do the people’s business,” he announced his support for it. “What has been produced will go a long way toward relieving the uncertainty hanging over us, and that’s why I intend to support it,” Ryan said. “It’s time for us to turn the page on the last few years and get to work on a bold agenda that we can take to the American people.”

We just hope this isn’t a sign that the “clean slate” Ryan is inheriting will soon have “Boehner Jr.” written all over it.

Of course, even with a GOP-controlled House and Senate, overcoming the Obama-run White House is no easy feat. But few could best Boehner’s speed in raising the white flag of surrender under the guise of bipartisanship.

And as Washington now prepares to spend billions more knowing full well that offsets promised for 10 years down the road will never materialize, Republican leaders have lost credibility to claim a return to fiscal sanity. What’s more, as they drive federal spending to a level beyond belief, the Constitution they claim to uphold condemns them.

But that’s ok. After all, they’ve ensured they won’t need to face the budget again until after their next election.

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