Late last night, House Budget Committee Democrats voted to adopt President Obama’s mother of all spending bills, the Democrat’s unprecedented $3.66 trillion FY 2010 budget. No Republican voted for this economic train wreck in the making. Throughout the day, House Republicans offered amendments in an attempt to rein in this gargantuan effort to bankrupt the American people, only to have Democrats reject every single substantive GOP proposal. The House resolution now moves to the floor for a vote likely next Wednesday.
Under the leadership of House Budget Committee ranking member Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), House Republicans will unveil their own budget blueprint today.
HUMAN EVENTS reported yesterday that House majority leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), along with other Democrat leadership, told reporters that Democrats would not try to fast track passage of the $3,100 annual “cap and trade” energy tax on every American family by a budgetary maneuver called “reconciliation.” Despite what Democrats said, at the markup yesterday it was revealed that there were, in fact, three separate $1 billion reconciliation directives in the budget, one of them designed precisely to facilitate “cap and trade” through the reconciliation process.
During a break at the committee markup for a series of House floor votes, I spoke with Rep. Ryan in an exclusive combination interview and brisk walk from the Cannon House Office Building to the Capitol, asking first about “cap and trade” and the reconciliation directives in the budget.
“Cap and trade is in the budget, go read it in the instructions to the Commerce Committee,” Ryan said. “The way this works is if you give reconciliation instructions to the committee of jurisdiction, then that committee can do what they want within that jurisdiction. The Commerce Committee is the committee in charge of cap and trade. It’s also a committee that has a smaller jurisdiction in health care. Ways and Means has the major jurisdiction in health care. This clearly leaves the window open for them to do cap and trade through reconciliation if they so choose to do so. Perhaps they’re going to try to move cap and trade out of reconciliation. But with this budget the way it is, this allows them to reserve the right to go back to reconciliation if they feel they need to later on, on the floor or in conference.”
I asked Ryan to speak in layman’s terms about the three separate $1 billion budget reconciliation directives to committees that the Democrats have put into the budget.
“One goes to Education and Labor, which is the federalization of the education student loan programs; one goes to Ways and Means, which is taxes and health care; and then one goes to Energy and Commerce, which is also health care and energy like cap and trade,” Ryan said. “Each committee has to come up with $1 billion in deficit reduction. That gets you into the window of reconciliation. They can put whatever bill they want into reconciliation then. They can take that $1 billion in deficit reduction and have a $1.3 trillion cap and trade program and spend $1.29 trillion of that program, and it satisfies the reconciliation requirements.”
As the evening dragged on, Democrats defeated an amendment offered by Ryan on a straight committee party line vote which would “strike the reconciliation instructions” from the budget. Budget reconciliation was originally designed as a deficit reduction tool, but Democrats are attempting to use that tool to ram through the controversial “cap and trade” energy tax on families, the unpopular nationalization of the health care industry, and the massive federalization of student loans. In the House, the “reconciliation” scheme essentially strips the power of the minority party to offer any constructive amendments to the budget on the House floor.
I asked Ryan what he thought of the budget overall. “I think this is the most fiscally irresponsible budget I’ve ever seen,” Ryan said. “This is kind of weird, but I’ve been reading federal budgets since I was 22 years old. … This budget doubles the national deficit within five and a half years, triples it in ten years, and poses a $1.9 trillion tax increase on our economy and has zero spending discipline whatsoever. It grows our government so big and so fast that it surpasses the European levels.
“I said this will Europeanize our economy and our nation, and it was unfair to say that because this budget, every single year of this budget, would actually be in violation of the European Maastricht Treaty. Its deficits would be too high.
“I think we should take heed of these warnings that we’ve gotten from the Japanese and that we’ve gotten from the Europeans, which is don’t go down our road, we’re trying to dig ourselves out of this hole, don’t dig it yourselves in the first place. We should heed their warnings. Unfortunately we have an ideologically-driven Congress that’s trying to move this stuff through fast. We basically have a left of center government in a very right of center country that’s trying to move their agenda so fast through this Congress before the right of center country figures out what’s going on.”
In the Senate, the stakes on special budget “reconciliation” rules are higher as these measures could be passed by a simple majority vote, stripping the Senate Republican minority party of their ability to filibuster. Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) warned that budget reconciliation in the Senate would “be the Chicago approach to governing: Strong-arm it through. You’re talking about the exact opposite of bipartisan. You’re talking about running over the minority, putting them in cement and throwing them in the Chicago River.”
The Senate also has a parliamentary tool that Republicans may be able to wield: the Byrd rule. According to the Center on Budget and Policy website, “While reconciliation enables Congress to bundle together several different provisions affecting a broad range of programs, it faces one major constraint: the ‘Byrd rule,’ named after Senator Byrd of West Virginia. This Senate rule makes any provision of (or amendment to) the reconciliation bill that is deemed ‘extraneous’ to the purpose of amending entitlement or tax law vulnerable to a point of order. If a point of order is raised under the Byrd rule, the offending provision is automatically stripped from the bill unless at least 60 senators vote to waive the rule. This makes it difficult, for example, to include any policy changes in the reconciliation bill unless they have direct fiscal implications. Under this rule, authorizations of discretionary appropriations are not allowed, nor are changes to civil rights or employment law, for example. Changes to Social Security also are not permitted under the Byrd rule.
“In addition, the Byrd rule bars any entitlement increases or tax cuts that cost money beyond the five (or more) years covered by the reconciliation directive, unless these ‘out-year’ costs are fully offset by other provisions in the bill.”
The budget offered by the Democrats is a five-year plan which would duck the offset requirements of the Byrd rule.
“They beat up the Bush administration for seven years for doing five-year budgets and this is what they brought us, a five-year budget,” Ryan told me as our interview and walk concluded at the “Members Only” House entrance at the Capitol steps. “This budget is five years because they don’t want to show you the explosion of taxes, spending and borrowing in the second five years.”