Even if the budget deal passed Dec. 13 by the House wasn't the best congressional Republicans could negotiate, it's not worth second thoughts that could tear the party apart. The two-year deal won't cut spending. In fact, it reverses $63 billion in spending cuts forced by sequestration. It also will increase the deficit each year and adds new sources of revenue -- also known as “tax hikes” -- in the form of increased airport user fees.
But the deal also forces Senate Democrats to do something they've avoided throughout most of President Obama's tenure in the Oval Office: take a big step back in the direction of adopting an annual budget that defines federal spending. Since taking over the House in the 2010 elections, the Boehner-led Republicans have let Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., shield their Democratic colleagues from having to cast recorded votes on the many tough choices that must be considered in the budget process. They did this by foregoing the budget process adopted in 1974 by a Democratic Congress and a Republican president, and relying instead on an endless series of continuing resolutions to fund the government.
|It's hard for House Republicans to call Democrats on spending when they, too, have failed to follow the law's requirements.|
Such an approach violates the spirit, if not the letter, of the Budget Act of 1974, which lays out in detail the process and schedule for setting annual spending by the federal government. But it's hard for House Republicans to call out Democrats on spending when they, too, have failed to follow the law's requirements. To make matters worse, the process of funding the government through a single continuing resolution or omnibus bill creates an "all-or-nothing" scenario in which Republicans are all but forced to shut down the entire government to change or block anything to which they object. Republicans saw in October how well that strategy works -- and what it does to their poll numbers.
It's time for congressional Republicans of all stripes to stop bickering and insist on regular order in the budget process. Instead of publicly denouncing Tea Party conservative groups -- and thus writing 2014 Democratic campaign commercial scripts -- John Boehner should plan now how his chamber will move all 12 required appropriations bills through the House on schedule, as the law requires. Tea Party conservatives should swallow their frustrations about the budget deal and start figuring out how best to use that process to frame the issues for 2014 in terms of what a Republican Congress will do beginning in 2015, starting with repealing and replacing Obamacare. Both sides must remember that if they don't deliver what they promise -- as they didn't with the last GOP president -- they won't get another chance for a long time, if ever.