Politicians of all stripes have promised to rein in Washington’s out-of-control spending for years, and sadly most have failed to deliver once in office. Most recently, Congress passed the Budget Control Act of 2011 with bipartisan support promising to cap overall discretionary spending at certain levels every year for the following decade, and President Obama signed it into law. Unfortunately, as the deadline for the budget conference committee report draws near, we sadly see waning support in Washington for fulfilling these promises to control spending.
Both sides of the aisle in both chambers are guilty. Senate Democrats, lead by Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray and Appropriations Barbara Mikulski, show particular determination in seeking spending levels of at least $1 trillion without any attempts to offset the new expenditures with mandatory spending cuts. Even House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, who is currently leading the budget conference committee, seems willing to accept revenue raisers such as aviation fees and spectrum sales in exchange for higher levels of spending.
More important than statements, recent votes reflect this bipartisan support for higher spending levels, too. When considering the continuing resolution this past September, the Senate voted on a motion to waive the spending caps. The motion to waive the spending caps passed with a 68-30 vote. Fourteen Senate Republicans—the purported party of fiscal restraint—joined their Democrat colleagues in voting to waive the spending caps. They cast a united vote to proliferate spending instead of standing up for taxpayers, an overwhelming signal that few in Congress are serious about keeping their promises on spending control.
Now is a critical time for Congress to stop the excuses and finally get federal spending under control. Capping spending at $967 billion in 2014 is a promise that members of Congress should honor. $967 is not just some arbitrary number; it’s important for a number of reasons.
First, as we approach the debt limit again in the spring, it is hugely symbolic whether or not Congress and President Obama will stick to the deal they made last time over the federal budget and the debt ceiling. If policymakers will not live up to past agreements, why should the American people have any faith they will live up to future ones?