Senate Democratic leaders on Thursday blasted House Republicans for presenting a budget outline that, they said, adds to the already-skyrocketing deficit to the tune of $1.01 trillion, as exemptions from mandatory spending offsets were included for items like a fix for the Alternative Minimum Tax, which every year hits more middle income Americans. But it quickly became clear that Democrats, while willing to criticize, could offer no specifics of their own on what they might do to reduce the debt and deficit.
Indeed, with the gavel in hand in the House, Republicans on Wednesday presented budget rules that would exempt a number of costly items from a requirement that they be offset by reduction in spending, like making tax cuts for all Americans permanent, including the tax on large estates. Many Republicans have long held that tax breaks should not be offset by spending cuts or tax increases in other areas, as the revenue will eventually trickle back into the economy.
"On the first day of the new Republican Congress, the new Republican leadership is replacing 'Pay As You Go' with 'Pretend as You Go,'" Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois, referring to rules that require that any loss of revenue to the government be made up by spending cuts or tax increases.
The nation's current debt is roughly $14 trillion, and the deficit is more than $1.3 trillion. House Republicans had promised to ax spending back to FY2008 levels, a savings, they calculated, of $100 billion, but that number changed on Wednesday. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wisc, said the savings would now be about $60 billion with Congress already well into the current fiscal year, adding, ""We're going to cut more than $100 billion this calendar year in spending."
"Republicans are finding it a lot easier to talk about reducing the deficit than actually doing it. At every turn they are adding if's and but's to their campaign promises. So we're here today to say these reckless fiscal policies are dead on arrival here in the Senate," Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-Ny., third in the leadership lineup, warned.
But when asked what their own spending targets would be, Schumer demurred, "We are going to be more responsible fiscally," the senator asserted, but quickly added, "I will not comment on any specific plan."
Schumer repeatedly promised to "get very specific," though he would not commit to submitting a budget this year, saying only, "We will be fiscally responsible and reduce government spending...But again, today our focus is on them. There's been a whole lot of hoopla about how they are changing things, but they're not changing things."
Both Durbin and Schumer warned House Republicans from cutting in the area of financial regulatory enforcement. "They're going to rue the day they cut enforcement," Schumer warned.
Democrats promised to submit a specific plan "soon" that would contain "concrete" provisions to create jobs and reduce the deficit. But on Thursday, Schumer, the Caucus' newly-minted message and policy guru, wanted no part of talking about those plans, preferring to focus his attention to detail solely on what he said his new foes across the Capitol were already doing wrong.