House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said Tuesday his party will not approve a traditional budget that sets spending guidelines for the new fiscal year.
Instead, Hoyer, D-Md., used a speech before the think tank Third Way to announce plans for the House to unveil what he called a “budget enforcement resolution” in its place.
Hoyer says this blueprint will curb discretionary spending (money the government spends on programs except Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid) beyond cuts called for in President Obama’s budget and look for ways to trim wasteful spending.
Hoyer also argued the reason to punt on a regular budget was because Mr. Obama’s fiscal commission that aims to slash the debt hasn’t completed it’s work yet.
“It isn’t possible to debate an pass a realistic, long-term budget until we’ve considered the bipartisan commission’s deficit-reduction plan,” Hoyer said. “I believe that Congress must take up and vote on that plan.”
Democratic leaders have wrestled with liberals and conservatives in their caucus to forge a budget agreement. But they’ve been unsuccessful cobbling together the votes for a consensus package.
The “budget enforcement resolution” relies on economic forecasts for the next five to ten years to determine how much the government should be spending.
“This budget enforcement resolution will enforce fiscal discipline in the near-term while the fiscal commission works on a long-term plan to get our country back to fiscal health,” Hoyer said.
The House has okayed a budget resolution every year since Congress re-wrote the budget rules in 1974. The Senate has failed to approve a budget resolution on multiple occasions.
Hoyer also argued against renewing tax cuts to those who earn more than $250,000. He instructed Congress to also take a knife to duplicative and unnecessary defense spending. The Pentagon’s budget has long been a sacred cow on Capitol Hill.
“Our defense spending cannot be above careful scrutiny and analysis of alternatives,” Hoyer said. However, Hoyer didn’t discuss specific programs he thought might fall on the chopping block.
Cutting defense is often an onerous task for lawmakers. Many of those programs provide essential jobs in struggling communities. Some of those projects are spread so wide across dozens of Congressional districts. That makes it hard to find the political will to kill a given program.
Hoyer also signaled that altering the tax code was an essential part to solving the government’s spending woes.
“Raise revenue is part of the deficit solution, too,” he said. “I’m also glad that some of my colleagues in Congress are talking seriously about simplifying the tax code to raise revenue more fairly and efficiently and increase economic productivity by cutting time lost on tax preparation.”
Hoyer defended the president’s $787 billion economic stimulus bill approved last year.
But support for legislation like that prompted criticism from Republicans.
“Here’s another idea Democrats should consider,” chided Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). “Stop spending money you don’t have.”
McConnell went on to describe the Democrats’ plan as “recklessness through higher taxes.”