Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
October 7, 2015

Democrats Not Cheering Walsh Proposal for Budget Balance Before Recess

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. John Walsh’s proposal to cancel recesses until adopting a budget resolution that balances the books by 2024 isn’t exactly getting endorsements.

Asked about the recently appointed Montana Democrat’s proposal, a Senate Budget Committee spokeswoman reiterated the view of Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., about the state of the budget process.

“Chairman Murray believes we should build on the budget currently in place as a result of the two-year bipartisan agreement she reached with Chairman Ryan with additional bipartisan work to create jobs, encourage growth, and responsibly tackle our long-term budget challenges,” the spokesperson said.

Congress is currently operating under the spending levels agreed upon in that bipartisan deal, which has allowed appropriators to get to work on fiscal 2015 bills.

And the office of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Left-leaning budgeteers have long been wary of plans that achieve balance in ten years. That’s true of the House budget resolution drafted by Chairman Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., that ranking member Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., criticized from the outset.

But, it’s also true of the concept of achieving balance in a decade, even with a mix of spending reductions and revenue increases.

Joel Friedman and Robert Greenstein of the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities wrote in a commentary last year (when the House and Senate were gearing up to consider budget resolutions) about what they saw as risks of even a “balanced” plan to eliminate the deficit within a decade.

“Such a budget, for example, would almost certainly include deep cuts in health care programs,” Friedman and Greenstein wrote.

“Right now, however, we don’t know how to slow health cost growth on the scale needed to balance the budget in ten years without sacrificing health care quality, impeding access to care, or raising the number of uninsured.”

Friedman and Greenstein also warned about near-term consequences of necessary spending reductions.

“Insisting on a deficit-reduction package so ambitious that it achieves balance in ten years could also prove counterproductive. The large savings targets required to reach balance would encourage policymakers to resort to major budget gimmicks, timing shifts, and ‘magic asterisks’ (claims of big savings without specific policies to achieve them),” Friedman and Greenstein wrote. “The result could be a budget plan that achieves balance only on paper.”

In a statement accompanying the introduction of the “Do Your Jobs Act,” Walsh said that a budget resolution leading to balance he would support would reject entitlement cuts.

“What’s more, we have to responsibly address this issue, which means I won’t allow cuts to Medicare, Social Security and other programs that serve our most vulnerable Americans,” he said.

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