Senate Armed Service Committee Chairman Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich.), left, listens while Senate Majority Leader Senator Harry Reid (D-Nev.) speaks to reporters May 2 on Capitol Hill in regards to the recent killing of Osama bin Laden. (Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images)

There’s some truth to this argument, as I’ll explain in a minute. But the GOP is trying to have it both ways. Boehner uses the Congressional Budget Office’s deficit estimates. He doesn’t subtract trillions because he doesn’t believe the agency’s war-spending estimates are faulty. Nor do I remember him calling the savings from Paul Ryan’s budget — which Boehner voted for — fake.But the Congressional Budget Office counts trillions in war spending in its budget baseline, and Ryan’s budget cut a trillion dollars from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

In fact, cutting war spending was one of Ryan’s largest sources of savings over the first decade. The following table, which you can find in larger form in this document (pdf) at the House Budget Committee’s Web site, estimates them at $1.04 trillion against the Congressional Budget Office’s baseline.


The background to this issue is that the Congressional Budget Office projects the future cost of the wars by taking current spending and assuming it grows by inflation. We know that won’t happen. But insofar as “the deficit” is a budget concept measured by the CBO, officially cutting war spending cuts the deficit. The fact that it’s not a painful cut that requires taxes to rise or Medicaid beneficiaries to pay more for their health care should make it more appealing, not less. And it is very hard to understand how Republicans could have touted those savings in their budget but object to them when Reid includes them in his proposal.