Conservatives should no longer be happy about budget deal 

On the night the budget deal was struck to avert a shutdown, I argued that it was a deal that conservatives should be happy about. In light of further details that have emerged, I would no longer make such a statement.

 Today, the Associated Press reports on a new Congressional Budget Office report showing that the deal that purported to slash spending by $38.5 billion for the remainder of the year, really only reduces outlays by a fraction of that amount, and only cuts this year's deficit by a mere $352 million. If the $38.5 billion was chump change in the context of $14 trillion debt, I wouldn't even know what to call $352 million. Bread crumbs, maybe?

The AP reports

The Congressional Budget Office estimate shows that compared with current spending rates the spending bill due for a House vote Thursday would pare just $352 million from the deficit through Sept. 30. About $8 billion in cuts to domestic programs and foreign aid are offset by nearly equal increases in defense spending....

The CBO study confirms that the measure trims $38 billion in new spending authority, but many of the cuts come in slow-spending accounts like water-and-sewer grants that don't have an immediate deficit impact.

A separate CBO analysis provided to lawmakers but not released publicly says that $5.7 billion in savings claimed by cutting bonuses to states enrolling more children and reducing the amount of money available to subsidize health care cooperatives authorized under the new health care law won't produce a dime of actual savings. CBO believes they are simply cuts to spending authority that is unlikely to be used anyway.

To be sure, some of the cuts would produce bigger savings over time. For instance, “CBO does credit a move to eliminate year-round Pell Grants with generating more than $40 billion in deficit reduction over the coming decade from both mandatory and appropriated accounts, though just slightly less than $1 billion this year.”

Yet as advertised, the deal was supposed to also reduce spending for the remainder of the year by a larger margin than it actually will, at least according to the AP's report on the CBO analysis.

When I gave my initial positive assessment of the deal, I saw the argument as being about whether Democrats would agree to defunding Planned Parenthood and ObamaCare and defanging the EPA, while achieving $61 billion in spending cuts. I didn't see Republicans as being able to force all of those changes when they only controlled one chamber of Congress. I thought other conservatives were being unrealistic about the possibility that the GOP would win the public relations battle over a shutdown and get President Obama and Democrats to cave. And I thought it was more important to move the discussion to Rep. Paul Ryan's budget, which actually addresses the long-term drivers of debt, our entitlements. I still believe all of those things, but as it turns out, I should have been a lot more skeptical about the numbers being thrown around at a point when details were scarce.

Unfortunately, it now appears that the new Republican majority has done what it attacked Democrats for doing when they controlled the House. They negotiated a back room deal, didn't release the details until 2 a.m., and the more we have of the details, the more we find out that the actual deal is filled with accounting gimmicks. Not a good way to earn back the trust of conservatives who grew disillusioned with the GOP the last time they controlled the House.

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Philip Klein

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