Liberals are up in arms because Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY) is blocking a bill that would extend unemployment benefits, extend health insurance subsidies (COBRA), extend highway funding, increase Medicare reimbursement rates for physicians (Doc Fix), extend a temporary “flood insurance” program and continue aid for small business programs. The bill, H.R. 4691, was introduced and passed the House on February 25th by a voice vote. When the bill came up in the Senate, Sen. Bunning objected and requested a vote to offset the estimated $10 billion cost of this bill over the next month. With the two words “I object” Sen. Bunning may save taxpayers $10 billion and Sen. Bunning has provided America a stark example of how Members of Congress refuse to pay for new spending initiatives.
Bunning said of the bill “if we can’t find $10 billion to pay for it, we’re not going to pay for anything.” A month ago, Congress passed something called pay-as-you-go (PAYGO) budgeting when they increased the the statutory limit of allowable national debt to $14.29 trillion, a $1.9 trillion increase. The current PAYGO rules are loaded with exceptions and loopholes, yet many saw the new PAYGO rules as a step in the right direction to restrain some out of control spending. The problem is that Congress seems to waive the PAYGO rule rather than offset one cent of new spending.
Brian Riedl has written for The Heritage Foundation about the loopholes and problems with past versions of PAYGO:
When PAYGO was a law from 1991 through 2002, it was never enforced. Over those 12 years, Congress enacted $700 billion in non-offset entitlement expansions and tax cuts, and then cancelled every single required spending cut that would have enforced the law. As a result, entitlement spending actually grew faster after PAYGO’s implementation.
Evidently that trend continues today, because in H.R. 4691, Congress waives the new version of PAYGO. The bill explicitly declares the new spending an emergency and the relevant language is as follows:
(b) Emergency Designation for Congressional Enforcement- This Act, with the exception of section 5, is designated as an emergency for purposes of pay-as-you-go principles. In the Senate, this Act is designated as an emergency requirement pursuant to section 403(a) of S. Con. Res. 13 (111th Congress), the concurrent resolution on the budget for fiscal year 2010.
(c) Emergency Designation for Statutory PAYGO- This Act, with the exception of section 5, is designated as an emergency requirement pursuant to section 4(g) of the Statutory Pay-As-You-Go Act of 2010 (Public Law 111-139; 2 U.S.C. 933(g)).
Basically, liberals in Congress love the idea of PAYGO, yet they refuse to enforce the statutory requirements that all new spending be offset. They do this by designating all new spending as an “Emergency Designation.” This is feel good politics at its worst, because the left can claim they are for PAYGO, yet PAYGO has yet to restrain any spending. Furthermore, the vote on PAYGO in the House helped pave the way for a $1.9 trillion increase in the debt limit. Therefore one can argue that PAYGO actually increased spending in the Congress.
Senator Bunning has proposed an offset of spending to pay for the one month extension of benefits consisting of “the unobligated amounts appropriated or made available under divisions A of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Public Law 111-5; 123 Stat. 115). $10,267,000,000 is rescinded on a pro rata basis.” Sen. Bunning is asking that the Obama Administration cut $10 billion of unspent Stimulus monies out of a $787 billion dollar proposal to continue to pay benefits to unemployed Americans.
Liberals would have you believe that Sen. Bunning is causing Americans to be furloughed from jobs and to have empty unemployment extension checks. Maybe they should look in the mirror and find ways to pay for this new spending. America is carrying over $12 trillion in debt and Americans should be thanking the one Senator who is educating this nation as to the out of control new spending coming from the federal government at a time when this same Congress refuses pay for it.