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Editorial: Congress's new symbolic budget

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | MAY 07, 2015 5:00 AM

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After seemingly endless rhetoric from our congressional representatives on cutting government spending, it looks like some are finally getting serious about doing it.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Senate passed the first joint congressional budget plan in six years. However, this is largely a result of Republican dominance in the last election cycle: the 51-48 vote on the budget came down almost entirely on party lines.

The plan would cut spending by $5.3 trillion over the next 10 years, a jaw-dropping figure, considering the current U.S. debt of $18.1 trillion. As expected, these cuts would be made mostly from such programs as Medicare and Medicaid, $4.2 trillion in reduced funding to be exact.

While this would certainly come with adverse effects, the notion that Congress has the ability to pass a balanced budget is encouraging. While government may need to rack up the debt and deficit in the short term in order to get through tough economic times, it’s important to recognize that this mode of spending should not be permanent. If nothing else, this resolution puts that notion at the forefront of public discourse.

That notion is one that seems to be perpetually on the back burner in thinking about policy. It’s easy to advocate for increased spending on a key issue (as The Daily Iowan Editorial Board often does) even when it means the government will be in debt because of it. It’s a lot harder to acknowledge that, eventually, interest on this debt will balloon to create an unsustainable method of operation.

But the big headline of the budget proposal is that it would completely eliminate the Affordable Care Act, the domestic hallmark of President Obama. Many of these freshman Republicans were elected on the premise that they fight to repeal the legislation, and it seems they’ve tried to hold up their end of the promise. However, though the budget itself has cleared both chambers of Congress, the details of how to implement it could mean its demise. Committee members must work out how exactly the cuts would be applied across the United States.

Because Congress sets budget resolutions independent of White House approval, Obama does not have the chance to veto this particular legislation. Yet in order to finalize each of these proposals contained within it, separate appropriation bills must be drafted and signed to put these cuts into action, and when those bills are sent to the White House, it’s unlikely that the president will sign them.

Republicans seem to have already acquiesced to this. “I’m not sure we can pass these bills,” Rep. Harold Rogers, the Republican House Appropriations Committee chairman, told the New York Times, “I think there’s a deal to be made.”

Therein lies the true nature of this spending resolution: It is intended as a message about the Republicans’ spending positions. There’s no real expectation to get this particular version finalized. Hopefully, both parties can come to the negotiating table with good faith and hammer out something that the president, and the American people, can accept.


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