Will the GOP once again opt for big government?
By Scott Sumner
The Republicans in Congress are facing an interesting decision on the budget. Here is the New York Times:
WASHINGTON — The congressional push this week to secure the first Republican budget plan in nearly a decade is revealing a chasm between fiscal hawks determined to maintain strict spending caps and defense hawks who are threatening to derail any budget that does not ensure an increase for the military.
“This is a war within the Republican Party,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, who has vowed to oppose a final budget that does not ensure more military spending. “You can shade it any way you want, but this is war.”
The divisions will be laid bare Tuesday when congressional leaders unveil blueprints that hew to spending limits imposed by the budget battles of 2011.
Unlike legislation, the spending plan Republicans will be creating this week requires only a majority vote in both the House and Senate, cannot be blocked by a filibuster and is not subject to presidential approval or veto.
. . .
The budget plans that will be drafted Wednesday by the House and Senate Budget Committees are more symbol than substance. They do set overall spending levels for domestic and defense programs.
What they cannot do is overturn a law signed by the president, the Budget Control Act of 2011, which imposed a decade’s worth of spending caps and across-the-board spending cuts known as sequestration. That will take yet another act by Congress, which defense hawks are trying to craft now, with the help of Democrats.
For Republican leaders, orderly passage of a budget is imperative. Republicans harangued Senate Democrats for their repeated failure to pass budgets when they controlled the chamber.
And they have promised conservative voters they will make good on their promises to fundamentally remake the federal government into a smaller, more limited force — with a budget that balances in 10 years.
“This is not only possible. It’s doable,” Senator Mike Enzi of Wyoming, the Budget Committee chairman, said last week.
It will not be easy. President Obama has already proposed raising spending caps in the fiscal year that begins this October by nearly $80 billion, half for defense, half for domestic programs. Democrats in the House and Senate will offer no help to Republican leaders as they try to assemble a majority to approve plans that will be far more austere.
Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Representative Mac Thornberry, Republican of Texas and chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, have promised a fight.
People often tell me that I should be a Republican. After all, I believe in small government. I point out that the GOP is pro-war on drugs, pro-NSA spying, pro-massive spending on border control, and pro-military adventurism. The response is that the Dems also favor some of that, and in any case the GOP actually wants less spending. I point out that when the GOP finally grabbed all three branches of government for the first time in my life, they immediately proceeded to increase Federal spending as a share of GDP, with a massive new entitlement program and greatly increased Federal involvement in education. They respond, “that was the old GOP, the new party has repudiated big government.”
I doubt it, but we shall see . . .