“A budget is a moral document,” Rep. Rob Woodall (R-Ga.) said two weeks ago. “It talks about where your values are.”
Those comments from a conservative member of the House Budget Committee happen to be entirely accurate. Indeed, Woodall’s description serves as a reminder of why it matters that House Republicans passed their budget blueprint late yesterday.
Normally quarrelsome House Republicans came together Wednesday night and passed a boldly conservative budget that relies on nearly $5 trillion in cuts to eliminate deficits over the next decade, calls for repealing the health care law and envisions transformations of the tax code and Medicare.
There were a variety of competing plans, but the approach endorsed by the House GOP leadership narrowly prevailed – overcoming 26 defections from within their own ranks.
Republican leaders, who’ve had some trouble corralling GOP votes for GOP bills in recent months, breathed a sigh of relief, and Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) was seen hugging members of his whip team in celebration last night. It was a reminder of just how far expectations have fallen – House Republicans have their largest majority in generations; they struggled mightily to narrowly pass their own budget plan; and this is somehow seen as a great victory for Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and the rest of the GOP leadership team.
The Senate Republican majority will now try to wrap up work on its budget blueprint – which will include key differences – before members eventually head to a conference committee to hammer out a bicameral agreement.
Note, budgets cannot be filibustered and are not subject to a presidential veto. In fact, much of this process is symbolic – a congressional budget does not lock in spending levels for policymakers; the appropriations process does. The entire budget fight is a less case of understanding what will happen and more a case of appreciating what congressional Republican would like to see happen if all the power were in their hands.
But if the practical effects are limited, why should people care? Because “a budget is a moral document; it talks about where your values are.”
This recent analysis from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities struck a chord.
The budgets adopted on March 19 by the House Budget Committee and the Senate Budget Committee each cut more than $3 trillion over ten years (2016-2025) from programs that serve people of limited means. These deep reductions amount to 69 percent of the cuts to non-defense spending in both the House and Senate plans.Each budget plan derives more than two-thirds of its non-defense budget cuts from programs for people with low or modest incomes even though these programs constitute less than one-quarter of federal program costs.
Right. If “a budget is a moral document” that reflects lawmakers’ “values,” the House Republican budget approved yesterday tells us, in frightening detail, that GOP morality is predicated on the assumption that low-income families have it too easy – and high-income families have it too tough.
It matters, of course, that Republicans had to rely on ridiculous budget tricks to give the appearance of responsibility. It also matters that they prioritized increased spending on the issue they care about (the military) over fiscal concerns they sometimes pretend to care about (the deficit).
But as the dust settles on yesterday’s floor drama, what remains are GOP “values” on full display. In 2015, Republican members of Congress believe in taking families’ health care benefits away. And scrapping Medicare altogether. And slashing food stamps. And making it harder for young people to go to college. And eliminating environmental safeguards. And freeing Wall Street of pesky oversight and layers of accountability.
In this “moral document,” GOP lawmakers spelled out their priorities for all the world to see. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) told reporters yesterday that when he talks to voters about the specific provisions of the Republican budget plan, the public balks – Americans assume he’s exaggerating, because the idea that GOP officials would actually vote for such a radical scheme seems “absurd.”
But the truth is, the Republican budget is real, it is cruel, and as of yesterday, it has passed.