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Just 4 months ago, Members of Congress voted to pass the Ryan Budget, which would balance the nation’s budget in 10 years. Sounds great, or as many Republicans might now say, “sounded great.” Similar to the way Democrats discovered that they only like ObamaCare when it doesn’t apply to them, House Republicans recently decided they liked the Ryan Budget only in theory. Last Tuesday (7/30), the latest T-HUD (Transportation & Housing and Urban Development) Bill was taken off the floor due to a lack of support from moderate conservatives (and, of course, liberals). The following day (Wednesday 7/31), Hal Rogers, Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said “I believe that the House has made its choice: Sequestration—and its unrealistic and ill-conceived discretionary cuts—must be brought to an end.”
The new T-HUD Bill would cut $7 billion from the 2013 version, with especially hard shots being taken at the Community Development Block Grant (cut from $2.9 billion down to $1.6 billion), high-speed rail, and Amtrak (a 21% cut to its operating budget), so it was unsurprisingly unpopular, especially to the urban Republicans who rely on these funds for their pet projects. But, what did Members of Congress expect? The budget could be balanced quickly without cutting spending? Maybe they forgot that we are currently nearly $17 trillion in debt.
The fact of the matter is that 221 of the 232 House Republicans voted for the Ryan Budget (which, flawed as it was, would at least balance the budget in ten years), and then many of them turned around and opposed the T-HUD bill that was brought to the floor as a result. Voting for the sequester and a balanced budget, and then threatening to vote against the bills that arise as a result is, for all intents and purposes, the same thing as doing away with sequestration altogether. Members of Congress cannot simply rest their hats on the fact that they voted in favor of sequestration because it means nothing if they are unwilling to pass budget cuts.
While Rep. Rogers’s comments are disheartening, they may be accurate. He might be one of only a handful of Republicans to openly say he wants to get rid of the sequestration (after all, we’re talking about politics), but Members of the House are doing nothing to persuade us otherwise. If House Republicans continue to support removing the only real spending cuts that they have achieved in their three year majority, then what exactly have they been sent to Congress to do?
So yes, it was a step in the right direction that the Ryan Budget got passed, such as it is. But the point is moot unless the majority of Congress starts voting in favor of the post-sequester appropriations bills. If the T-HUD bill is any indicator (hopefully it isn’t), then balancing the budget will be even harder than anticipated.
It’s just another reminder, as FreedomWorks CEO Matt Kibbe is fond of saying, that “Sometimes you have to beat the Republicans before you beat the Democrats.”