March 17, 2009

March 17, 2009 | Commentary on

House and Senate Republicans Working on 'Bolder, Clear' Budget

Congress is commencing a debate on the President's $3.6 trillion budget. It represents efforts by the left to radically expand the size and scope of the federal government. President Barack Obama said last week that each generation of Americans has "found the capacity to not only endure, but to prosper -- to discover great opportunity in the midst of great crisis." Our nation is in great crisis, and conservatives need to ensure that President Obama doesn't use the current economic crisis as an opportunity to dramatically expand government.

Last week, House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence announced that House Republicans would offer a "bolder, clear" alternative to Obama's enormous budget. As Americans cut back on basic necessities, Congress has a moral obligation to bring government spending back to its historical norm. Congress also has a moral obligation to prohibit funding for many dangerous policy ideas put forth by our president, including efforts to ration healthcare, to destroy life through embryonic stem cell research, and to tax energy production in the name of climate change.

House conservatives don't have to look far for good ideas. The elements of a Conservative budget plan are being compiled by the Conservative House and Senate leaders. A responsible budget would dramatically lower taxes on job creation and investment, using Sen. Jim DeMint's (R-S.C.) bill titled "The American Option" as a model. The Conservative budget plan would streamline a cumbersome regulatory process and allow Americans access to their large supply of domestic fuels using Sen. David Vitter's (R-La.) and Rep. Rob Bishop's (R-Utah) bill titled the "No Cost stimulus Act" as a template. It should also commit at least 4% of GDP to defense needs, as Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Rep. Trent Frank (R-Ariz.) have proposed.

They must restrain entitlement spending. In doing so, they should outline the path towards a restrained budget and ultimately show the American people how we slow our massive national debt. The top Republican on the House Budget Committee, Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), has laid out a detailed plan called "A Roadmap for America's Future." His plan addresses the entitlement crisis while strengthening Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. It returns federal spending to sustainable levels and take steps to minimize the debt future generations will inherit. Finally, it seeks to make America the leader of the global marketplace by reforming our tax code.

Americans deserve a responsible budget that gets America's fiscal house in order. Such a budget will contain many hard choices and be a target rich environment for those on the left who wish to politicize our country's future.

welfare Reform Under Attack

The House Republican Study Committee (RSC) team members Tom Price (R-Ga.) and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) have introduced legislation to repeal a provision in the so-called "stimulus" bill that removes elements of the 1996 welfare reform law. According to the RSC, since enactment of the 1996 welfare reforms, welfare caseloads have fallen by 65%. The reforms removed a system where states would receive federal increased federal funding as they increased the amount of people on welfare.

According to my Heritage Foundation colleague Robert Rector, "the stimulus bills will add nearly $650 billion in new means-tested welfare spending over the next decade. This new spending amounts to around $18,500 for every poor person in the U.S. The cost of the new welfare spending amounts, on average, to over $8,500 for each family paying income tax." The Price bill will repeal a $5 billion "emergency fund" for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program including incentives to states that promote the expansion welfare caseloads.

Paid Volunteerism

This week, the House may consider a bill to expand AmeriCorps, SeniorCorps and creates a VeteransCorps that will cost you about $97 million next year. Sens. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) are pushing a similar measure in the Senate. These so-called volunteers, in addition to being paid a salary, would receive $5,350 to put toward educational costs. The problem is that an expansion of government in this arena crowds out private sector and charitable efforts for true volunteerism.

Conservative Cheers and Jeers

Conservative cheers to South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford for rejecting $700 million in stimulus funding. He may be joined by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour because too many strings are attacked to the federal monies.

Conservative jeers to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for a profanity laden yelling match overheard by many during the debate over the omnibus spending bill. The Politico reported that "the heated, sometimes profane, exchanges were described as 'ugly' by Democrats on both sides of the Capitol."

Brian Darling is director of U.S. Senate Relations at The Heritage Foundation

About the Author

Brian Darling Senior Fellow for Government Studies
Government Studies

First Appeared in Human Events