GOP Budgets Move Forward Amid Debate on Defense

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The House and Senate Budget Committees passed proposed budgets last week but infighting over defense spending has left Republican leaders scrambling to solidify support for the plans.

Both budgets promise to reduce and eventually end deficits over the next decade by cutting projected spending by more than $5 trillion. But they lack key specifics and rely on some unrealistic assumptions and gimmicks.

They do not increase revenue levels from current law. A notable inconsistency: Both plans include repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) yet also count on ACA-level tax revenue. Republican lawmakers have also made extending certain tax breaks a top priority, but their proposed budgets fail to say how the lost revenue would be made up.

For 2016, both budgets adhere to spending caps on discretionary spending set by the Budget Control Act (BCA), upsetting some Republicans who believe this could dangerously constrain military funding.  

Consequently, the Senate Budget Committee approved an amendment increasing funding for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) — which supports war-related activities — to $96 billion in 2016. This is not credibly offset, with lawmakers simply promising savings that would start in 2022; nor is it believable that future Congresses will reduce spending in those years below the level the current Congress already thinks is “dangerously low.”

In the House Budget Committee, fiscal conservatives succeeded in keeping a requirement that some OCO funding must be offset by cuts elsewhere. They also prevented a $2 billion increase in OCO funding, which would have brought the OCO total up to the Senate budget’s amount.

To accommodate lawmakers who seek higher levels of defense funding, House leaders will allow votes on two versions of the budget — the original proposal and one with the offset requirement removed and the $2 billion funding increase included. The House also plans to vote on several other budget proposals. 

External links:
Senate Republican Budget
House Republican Budget
House GOP Weighs Votes on Two Budgets, Winner Takes All (Politico)
House Budget Plan Seeks Deficit Reduction But Relies on Questionable Spending Assumptions and Revenue Projections (Concord)
House Democrats’ Fiscal 2016 Budget
Republican Study Committee’s Fiscal 2016 Budget

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