Before getting into the substance of this wastebasket, a little history is in order. In the wake of the 2010 election, Congress passed the Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011 as a way to resolve the standoff between the new Republican House majority and President Obama over raising the debt ceiling. Among other things, the BCA created the Congressional Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (a.k.a. “Super Committee”) to find at least $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction savings over 10 years. Congress would have to vote up or down on the cuts by the end of 2012 or face automatic, across-the-board cuts, known as sequestration, to achieve the deficit reduction target. The Super Committee could not come up with a plan, and the automatic cuts went into effect in 2013.
In the years that have passed since the original failure of the Super Committee not much has changed. Policymakers are still reluctant to get serious about coming up with deficit reducing offsets. The Fiscal Year 2016 budget released by the President blows through the budget caps, while the House and Senate agreed to budget resolutions that technically abided by the caps but only by dramatically boosting the “off budget” Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funding. Rather than following through with a credible plan to bring spending in line with revenues, Congress and the White House continue to just ignore the spending caps meant to do just that.
As we have done several times before, Taxpayers for Common Sense has drafted “Common Sense Cuts for the 114th Congress: Silencing Sequester Scaremongers with $2 trillion in Deficit Reduction” to help Congress and the President come up with fiscally responsible solutions The report identifies more than $2 trillion in deficit reduction over ten years, and nearly $270 billion worth of immediate savings in fiscal year 2016, with cuts to national security programs, energy tax breaks, agriculture policy reforms, and others. It is not intended to be an exhaustive list of TCS proposals, but rather a sampling of some of the work policymakers should do if they want to responsibly undo some or all of the BCA-mandated budget caps.
You often hear lawmakers trot out the bogeyman of the mindless, across-the-board cuts of sequestration. But the fact is that there is no threat of sequestration if Congress and the President do their jobs and craft a better, more fiscally responsible and more credible budget plan that also meets the deficit reduction target taxpayers were promised in the BCA. As we have documented there’s plenty to be cut whether it be spending programs or failed tax expenditures or money saving policy changes. It’s not like there aren’t plenty of things for Congress to choose from. Heck, they don’t need to enact everything we suggested. They could use the list as a menu, cut agriculture subsidies here, trim or eliminate the Overseas Contingency Operations slush fund, scrap tax breaks for NASCAR track owners, and fix the Highway Trust Fund and you have billions of dollars in deficit reduction. The bottom line is that instead of complaining ad nasueum about the budget caps, Congress needs to make some difficult decisions that could help alleviate those constraints.