House Budget ‘Gimmicks’ Increase Defense Spending Without Increasing Defense Spending


House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) is faced with yet another budget crisis in the House. Earlier, If You Only News writer Shannon Argueta reported that Boehner had a huge fight on his hands between the fiscal hawks who want to contain spending and keep current cuts in place (or cut spending even further), and the defense hawks, who want more spending for defense. Boehner’s trying to appease both sides, and is trying some intense gymnastics to make everybody happy.

According to CNN, Representative Tom Price, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, stopped a late-night meeting on the budget because of this blow-up. Price tried to boost defense spending levels in the House’s budget, but the fiscal hawks on his committee shot him down. They approved the plan this morning, without additional defense spending.

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However, CNN also reports that Boehner said that more money for defense would be added to the budget, before it reached the House floor for a vote. He plans to use the Rules Committee to make that happen, and said in his weekly press conference:

There is overwhelming support in our conference for providing additional resources to protect our national security.

He’s right, but House Democrats are going to have a difficult time with this budget because it rolls back the Affordable Care Act, and it also makes cuts to other domestic programs. The defense hawks seem to want to turn us into the Soviet Union; cutting back other things we need in order to keep beefing up our military.

What’s truly interesting, though, is that Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH), and 70 other House Republicans, sent a letter to Boehner saying they wouldn’t vote for any budget that didn’t have a defense spending level of at least $561 billion, according to CNN’s story. That’s the level that President Obama requested in his budget. One would think that they’d see that level as too low, simply because it’s the minimum that Obama wants.

Why is it that they’re not afraid to agree with Obama on defense, so long as he’s trying to spend more, but they’ll cast him as an evil, tax-every-penny-from-every-person-and-spend-even-more-than-that dictator on pretty much everything else? For that matter, why is it that increasing defense spending is okay no matter what, but increasing spending anywhere else we need it (like, oh, say, for our infrastructure), will plunge this country into ruin?

In addition to Boehner’s gymnastics, Price used a sort of accounting gimmick to add money to the defense budget without adding money to the defense budget. CNN says that he added tens of billions of dollars to the “Overseas Contingency Operations” account, which technically isn’t part of the budget, and so doesn’t need to be offset by cuts.

The Senate, however, blasted that plan as the gimmick it is, and because of that, it might be hard to reconcile the House budget with the Senate’s version, which they plan to introduce this week.

Boehner’s in a tough spot, and so is the House (as usual). Republican dysfunction continues despite the fact that this party needs to prove it can govern now that it controls both houses of Congress. May we stop the merry-go-round so those of us who still have some sanity left can get off?

Featured image by Medill DC. Licensed under CC BY-2.o via Flickr. Text added by Rika Christensen/Liberalistics

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