Dubious Discipline; Democrats Playing Budget Games

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), October 13, 2005 | Go to article overview

Dubious Discipline; Democrats Playing Budget Games


Byline: Gary J. Andres, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Prayers and wailing for redeeming budgetary discipline are so pervasive among Democrats in Congress these days that it appears the party has undergone a collective fiscal conversion. Red ink is now the fuel used to burn big-spending apostates at the stake, and grieving over the size of the federal deficits is the new Democratic orthodoxy.

Did the party find fiscal religion, or is this the political equivalent of witch trials for Republican policies? Like the language of any subculture, their rhetoric requires translation. Democrats talk a lot about the budget deficit these days, but listen carefully to their words. It's hard to tell by reading their lips because they offer few concrete specifics, but their pleas for fiscal sanctification are code words for an older Democrat orthodoxy - raising taxes. Democrats will have a chance in the next several weeks to put their mouths where the money is and stop hiding behind procedural and process rhetoric muddying their true intentions. Next week Republicans in the House will propose a detailed budget amendment to address new fiscal realities - the Democrats need one, too.

In his recent appearance on "Meet the Press," Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Rep. Rahm Emanuel of Illinois offered only rhetoric. He proposed "a summit on the budget to deal with the $3 trillion of debt that has been added up in five years and structural deficits of $400 billion a year." Hmm, "budget summit" with Democratic leaders in the House? Republicans might need to use the prescription-drug benefit to get some anti-flashback medication. 1990 was 15 years ago, but the lessons of raising taxes - after a budget summit - are still fresh in their minds.

Budget summits are a kind of process mumbo-jumbo Democrats love to propose to shirk tough choices or clear alternatives. Democrats will insist on putting tax increases on the table as a price of admission - a non-starter with Republicans.

House Republican leaders distributed a plan last Thursday night to address the new realities of the deficit in a post-Katrina Congress. In a memo sent to all GOP House members, the leadership committed to specific principles underlying a midsession budget amendment - the first time since 1977 that lawmakers will use such a procedure - aimed at cutting federal spending.

The memo proposes boosting mandatory savings from $35 billion already approved in the fiscal year 2006 congressional budget resolution to at least $50 billion.

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