As the Senate passed the budget compromise and prepared to send it to President Obama, 33 Republicans staunchly opposed the plan, including Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, who said the math just doesn’t work.
Crafted by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan and Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray, the plan calls for more than $60 billion in new spending in the next two years but calls for more than $80 billion in cuts during future years.
“It promises to make the cuts that were scheduled to kick in next year and the year after and promises to make those same cuts about 10 years down the road. So what it does really is make government more expensive now, not so that we can pay down the debt or reduce the deficit but so that we can spend more now. It does that with the assurance that we will cut more 10 years in the future,” said Lee, who does not believe those spending reductions will ever take place.
“Experience has taught us that cuts that are promised far down the road will not materialize,” he told WND. “One congress cannot bind another except by constitutional amendment. Our saying that Congress will make these cuts 10 years down the road isn’t really worth a whole lot, because experience and the way our legal system works tells us that we can’t make that promise and people shouldn’t necessarily believe it.”
The $60 billion in additional spending over the next two years essentially means the sequestration cuts that took place in March will vanish and the fierce debt-ceiling fight in 2011 is rendered almost meaningless. Lee, like most lawmakers, is no fan of how the sequestration cuts were targeted, but he believes they were better than nothing.
“Sequestration cuts, as bad as they were, were cuts that were necessary,” Lee said. “In other words, we needed to reduce the costs of the federal government by at least that amount, probably more, but we needed to do it in a smarter fashion. So we see that great bargain that was struck at the time the debt ceiling was raised now largely evaporating, at least for the time being.”
So what would Lee like to see in a budget deal?
“I’d like to see sequestration replaced with cuts that are more targeted and cuts that don’t cut disproportionately into national defense,” he said. “I’d like to see us reform a whole host of programs along the lines that I proposed last year in my ‘Saving the American Dream’ plan, which would bring us to balance within a period of five years.”
But without a formal alternative budget on the table, Ryan-Murray supporters have accused Lee and his allies of charting a course to another government shutdown. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., contends senators opposing the compromise lack “intellectual integrity” if they don’t offer a substitute plan. Lee fiercely rejects that logic.
“I don’t feel comfortable making or agreeing with that argument,” he said. “It cannot be the case that we simply say every time we have to do whatever the Democrats want us to do, because if we don’t we’ll cause a government shutdown. That can’t be the way that we operate the federal government.
“We need to get back to regular order appropriations. We need to get back to the point where we make individualized spending decisions based on the program and based on government function. Otherwise, we end up in this situation where we spend money on the basis of continuing resolutions, which is where we’re asked to fund everything in government at current levels or fund nothing in government and cause a government shutdown.”
He added, “That can’t be the way that we operate government. That cannot be a recipe for anything but heartache and disaster down the road.”