Shocker: Senate Democrats Ignore Spending Rules From Debt Ceiling Compromise
The debt deal compromise signed earlier this year – it was the Budget Control Act of 2011 which also created the “super committee” – contained provisions to cap appropriations. “In FY 2012, the cap was set at $1,043 billion, a modest reduction of $7 billion from total regular appropriations last year,” writes Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former director of the Congressional Budget Office.
So has Congress lived within that appropriations cap, which we were assured would reduce spending by hundreds of billions of dollars over time? Of course they didn’t. The House tried to, but the Senate didn’t go along.
The House of Representatives passed the last spending measure in three parts: H.R 2055, the Omnibus; H.R. 3672, which included program-integrity measures and disaster funding; and H. Con. Res. 94, a modest across-the-board reduction to offset the spending contained in H.R. 3672.
The Senate passed only two of the three measures. Care to guess which two?
Predictably, Senate Democrats supported the spending measures and not the reduction. Despite having over $1 trillion in appropriations, the thought of reducing spending by less than $9 billion was evidently too much pain to bear.
So how did Congress, the Senate Democrats specifically, get around the appropriations caps? They used a loophole in the law allowing them to exceed the caps once a certain amount of disaster spending was appropriated. And since official government disasters happen all over the country every single year (whether they’re actually disasters or not) it’s pretty easy to invoke the loophole.
The Budget Control Act allows for spending caps to be adjusted for disasters, up to a certain amount. For FY 2012, that amount was $11.3 billion. Between the end-of-year measure and disaster spending enacted earlier in the year, Congress has appropriated just shy of the full allowance, which allowed Congress to spend above the cap. H.R. 3672 contained $8.6 billion for disaster and program-integrity spending.
H. Con. Res 94, the third piece to the puzzle, provided $8.6 billion in savings to offset the disaster and program-integrity spending that breached the cap. If Senate Democrats had passed this measure, total appropriations (not including the war) would amount to $1,045 billion in FY 2012, reflecting about $2 billion above the cap in previously enacted disaster spending. Still, this amount would be about $5 billion below last year’s levels — a modest but meaningful decline.
Unfortunately, Senate Democrats (except Ben Nelson) couldn’t bring themselves to support this modest acknowledgment of reality and killed the measure.
Pathetic.Tags: deficits, harry reid, national debt