Yesterday, the newest White House chief of staff, Jack Lew, took to the Sunday talk shows to get a head start on promoting President Barack Obama’s FY2013 budget, which is set to be released today. But just as he was getting warmed up, Lew ran smack into a brick wall when he was forced to defend the Democrat-controlled Senate’s failure to pass a budget in the last 1,019 days.
“You can’t pass a budget in the Senate of the United States without 60 votes, and you can’t get 60 votes without bipartisan support,” Lew said on CNN’s State of the Union. “So unless… unless Republicans are willing to work with Democrats in the Senate, [Majority Leader] Harry Reid is not going to be able to get a budget passed.” Lew repeated the claim in a slightly different form on NBC’s Meet the Press, saying “One of the things about the United States Senate that I think the American people have realized is that it takes 60, not 50, votes to pass something.”
The trouble is, Lew is absolutely wrong. As ABC’s Jake Tapper points out, budgets only require 51 Senate votes for passage. The Washington Post‘s “Fact Checker” Glenn Kessler weighed in as well, saying that Lew, who is a two-time budget director, “really should know better.” When Tapper called the White House on the error, he says that they didn’t deny that Lew was wrong and instead spun back to blaming “general gridlock in Congress that makes accomplishing even the most basic tasks nearly impossible.”
The issue, though, is bigger than whether or not Lew twisted the truth about a procedural matter that probably escapes the interest of the vast majority of Americans. The issue is that President Obama and his allies in Congress continue to take a pass on governing by refusing to address one of the biggest issues of our time: a looming fiscal crisis that will leave Americans saddled with unacceptable levels of spending and debt. According to Congressional Budget Office long-term projections, spending will rise to as much as 34 percent of GDP, with deficits at a post-war record of 15.5 percent of GDP and debt held by the public nearly twice the size of the entire economy. Heritage’s Patrick Knudsen says President Obama should address these problems head on:
No one expects President Obama to transform into a conservative. But he cannot ignore the fundamental problems of runaway spending and debt, and he can no longer turn these problems over to fiscal commissions or super committees. If his budget for fiscal year (FY) 2013 is to be a credible policy document–not just a public relations pitch–it should:
Show specific proposals for reforming entitlements and reducing other spending not just for the next 10 years but over the long term as well; prevent the devastating cuts in defense that are looming because of the debt-reduction Budget Control Act; offer permanent solutions to the large spending and tax policies that keep vexing lawmakers and the public; and reject phony budget savings and other gimmicks.
Early details of the President’s plan are not promising. It purports to cut the deficit by $3 trillion over the next decade, with more than $1.5 trillion of that coming from new taxes on corporations and wealthy and with no structural changes to entitlements. Already, the President’s plan is drawing fire, with House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) saying, “It seems as if the President is doing little more than class envy and the status quo, which is the greatest threat to our health security, our retirement security, our national security and our economic security.”
In his budget last year, President Obama claimed government savings of the highest order — many of which were illusory and misleading gimmicks, including $1.09 trillion in spending reductions through 2021 for activities in Iraq and Afghanistan that was never going to be spent. That was on top of claiming mandatory savings from policies that were actually tax or fee increases. Meanwhile, the President is also finding “savings” by drastically cutting the military, leaving the nation with a hollowed-out force that will be unable to adequately execute its mission of defending the United States at home and abroad.
Later today, The Heritage Foundation will provide a detailed analysis of the President’s budget proposal on The Foundry. Judging by how early the White House turned on its spin machine — and Lew’s remarks on Meet the Press that “There is pretty broad agreement that the time for austerity is not today” — the news won’t be good. Expect more of the same from the White House — half measures and tax hikes, without bothering to address America’s entitlement spending crisis.
- There’s a new front opening in the fight over teacher tenure. Virginia lawmakers are debating bills that would put teachers on three-year contracts, at the end of which they could be let go for poor performance.
- With helmets, shields, and batons, police in Athens yesterday clashed with tens of thousands of protesters who are up in arms over a decision by Greece’s parliament to approve more public spending cuts in order to secure international aid.
- The House this week is considering a $260 billion transportation bill which has come under fire from conservatives for being an unaffordable boondoggle.
- The Arab League has called for the United Nations to help create a peacekeeping force in Syria, where the Assad regime is continuing its relentlessly violent crackdown on anti-government protesters.
- Governor Scott Walker (R-WI) delivered a passionate defense of Wisconsin’s reforms at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday night. Read about it on The Foundry.