Republicans will take control of the House in January with grand promises to bring federal spending under control. There isn’t a moment to lose—and Senate Republicans can act now to prevent spending growth. Under President Biden’s policies, more than $4.1 trillion of new spending has been approved—roughly the amount, in real terms, that was spent to win World War II. This spending and debt blowout was the ignition switch that generated 8% inflation this year.
In the wake of the election, Senate Republicans are negotiating another omnibus spending bill of almost $2 trillion. It contains no program cuts. At the same time, House Republicans have decided they want to bring back earmarks for projects like Alaska’s notorious “bridge to nowhere.” This is setting the stage for both a fiscal policy and political debacle.
Republicans should do something else instead. They will soon have the unilateral power to cut more than $130 billion from the budget. To secure these savings, Senate Republicans need only refuse to waive 2010’s Statutory Pay-as-You-Go-Act, or Paygo. Federal spending is now running roughly $130 billion over legal expenditure caps. Under Paygo rules, if Congress doesn’t find offsetting savings to bring spending below the limits by January, automatic cuts are triggered, including a 4% reduction in Medicare provider payments.
Congressional Republicans could and should propose a slate of cuts in wasteful programs as an alternative to these automatic “sequester” cuts. Finding these savings wouldn’t be a heavy lift. The cutbacks would amount to roughly 5% of the $2.4 trillion in spending Mr. Biden has approved without a single Republican vote. Simply canceling the $80 billion for 87,000 new Internal Revenue Service agents, curtailing some of the tens of billions of “green new deal” subsidy programs, and clawing back $500 billion in unspent COVID money would do the trick. Alternatively, cutting 3 cents of every dollar from domestic nonentitlement programs would also comply with the budget law. Remember, many federal programs have nearly doubled in size since COVID.
If Democrats refuse such a financially sensible package of budget savings, responsibility for the small automatic cuts in entitlement programs will be theirs. The Democrats wrote these budget rules in the Obama years as a trap for Republicans. Ensnaring them in their own budget contraption would constitute rough justice.
Here’s the catch. In recent years the Paygo rules have been routinely suspended with virtually no objection from either party. Mr. Schumer needs 60 votes in the Senate to waive the budget rules. He’s betting the store that Republicans will blink again. If 41 of the 50 Republicans in the current Senate refuse to suspend the rules, the bloated federal budget will have to shrink.
Senate Republicans have a clear-cut opportunity to curtail federal spending. If they again refuse to exercise that power, what makes anyone think they will do so next year or the year after?
The full text of this piece was added on 1/11/2023. You can also read the full article here.
This piece originally appeared in The Wall Street Journal Opinion on 12/12/22