Congressional Republicans are planning to push a balanced budget amendment when they return from recess in April, Politico reported on Wednesday. The vote comes directly after many of those same Republicans voted to pass two massively expensive measures, a $1.3 trillion dollar spending bill and a $1 trillion dollar tax cut that primarily benefits the wealthiest Americans.
The attempt at a balanced budget amendment is mostly a shiny gimmick meant to gin up support for Republicans as they approach the 2018 midterm elections. The tax bill is largely unpopular with Americans and very few have actually seen any change in their paychecks, contrary to what President Donald Trump and other Republicans promised.
“It’s almost election season, and it would be helpful if GOP lawmakers could go home and be able to say they voted to support balancing the federal budget, even though they voted boosted discretionary spending by a ton, and have not touched entitlement spending, which, they have said for years, is the driver of U.S. budget deficits,” Politico’s Jake Sherman, Anna Palmer, and Daniel Lippman wrote.
Also in the works is a plan for a second round of tax legislation to make tax cuts for individuals permanent. Republicans came under fire during negotiations for providing corporations with a permanent tax cut while individuals and families only received temporary ones, and making individual cuts permanent might help stem the backlash in the lead up to midterms.
House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady confirmed the existence of such legislation earlier in March, after President Trump stated three times in the month of February that Brady was working on a second tax bill.
“We think even more can be done,” Brady said during a Fox Business appearance on March 14. “While the tax cuts for families were long-term, they’re not yet permanent. So we’re going to address issues like that. We’re in discussions with the White House, the president, on this issue.”
Making the individual cuts permanent will cost an estimated $1.5 trillion in the decade after 2025, according to a Tax Foundation analysis using numbers from the Joint Committee on Taxation.
As Politico previously reported, Republicans are attempting to use the second round of tax cuts as a way to shame Democrats who fail to support what the GOP sees as their biggest legislative accomplishment during the Trump administration.
Adam Jentleson, who served as deputy chief of staff for the former Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, told Bloomberg there’s “very little chance” that the nine Democrats needed to pass the tax cuts would back a bill centered on making the individual tax changes permanent.
“It is a cheap political exercise and they shouldn’t lend it any more credence than it deserves,” he said.
Legislation like the balanced budget amendment, which forces Washington to be more fiscally responsible, sounds good in theory, but the reality is that, to achieve that goal, cuts will have to made and taxes will likely have to be raised. With a Republican-controlled Congress and a House speaker who has dreamed of slashing entitlement programs since taking office, that most likely means devastating cuts to welfare, Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security, at the very least.
That Republicans have their eye on slashing government programs comes as no surprise, of course. Shortly after Congress passed the tax bill, The New York Times warned of the “Trojan horse” hidden in the legislation that will serve as the setup for steep cuts. Paul Ryan himself said outright that Medicare and Medicaid were his next targets for 2018.
“We’re going to have to get back next year at entitlement reform, which is how you tackle the debt and the deficit,” Ryan said during an appearance on Ross Kaminsky’s talk radio show. “… Frankly, it’s the health care entitlements that are the big drivers of our debt, so we spend more time on the health care entitlements — because that’s really where the problem lies, fiscally speaking.”