Liberal pundits insist the president has laid out a good-faith budget and the House should negotiate now.
That’s wrong on two counts.
I’ll briefly touch on the first. A good-faith budget would have reduced the debt at the end of 10 years; this one makes it larger. A good-faith budget would not have included the same taxes the GOP already rejected. A good-faith budget would have included something more savings than a pathetic $50 billion over 10 years. (By the way, a House budget source tells me the policy description in the White House budget documents is last year’s plan, which saved only $27.6 billion over 10 years. Showing how unserious they are, the White House apparently needed to pump up the number on means-testing so it threw in some more brackets and called it $50 billion in savings. Lesson: Be wary of round numbers.)
But it is the latter point — who needs to negotiate with whom — on which I want to focus.
The budget is not the president’s alone; it is a creature of Congress. The obligation is for the Senate and House to negotiate with one another. In fact, House Budget chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is talking to Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) to work out how to approach a conference committee. Senate Democrats don’t have either means-testing or chained CPI in their budget proposal. Maybe the Senate Democrats should negotiate with the White House and let the House know when they are ready.
Next, the Pentagon can negotiate with the White House. It seems the Defense Department request is higher than the sequester number. Hmm. Is the Pentagon’s number the real amount we should be spending on defense? If so, the president is holding actual defense needs hostage to his regressive tax schemes. A Republican Senate staffer emails me: “The only way they can get $527 billion in appropriations this year is for us to repeal the BCA [Budget Control Act], and there is no way that is going to happen unless we pay for the spending cuts associated with the revised caps of the BCA. Obama proposes to do that with tax increases — you can assess the likelihood of that happening. So the Department has proposed no way to make do with $475 billion this year, which is approximately what they get under the current state of the law.” He adds, “It is a complete abdication of leadership.”
So, once the Pentagon and the White House work out their differences and the Senate and the president are on the same page (there is a philosophical divide there), negotiations with the House can start.
I say that in all seriousness because the House should not have to “pay” for the Senate to get to the point where the president is. If the Senate won’t even consider means-testing or chained CPI (itty-bitty changes in comparison to the extent of our entitlement problem), then the two chambers might as well pass a continuing resolution now and go home.
Actually, that is the most likely result.