The Smart Money: The House and Senate Budgets

Posted Tuesday, March 19, 2013 in Analysis

The Smart Money: The House and Senate Budgets

Courtesy Washington Post.

by Gina Hamilton

For the first time in a while, we actually have two competing budgets out of Congress. 

The reason why the Senate hadn't actually produced a budget in the last few years was that there was a little political brinkmanship going on.  The Senate had actually created a detailed budget in each of those years, but the Republican majority had been able to pull out all detail, which would make it vulnerable to attack by the House and in the conference committee that would follow, virtually guaranteeing that the final product would look more like Paul Ryan's dream of doing away with all social safety net expenditures and whittling down entitlements substantially, and so Democrats voted against their own budget to prevent that.

Why the Senate didn't produce a budget that wouldn't be subject to that kind of game in those years is beyond my paygrade.  However, they didn't, and as a result, the federal government has been running on a series of continuing resolutions for the last four years.

The Senate budget was put together by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington, and during the committee hearing on Thursday, emerged largely intact.

The House budget was constructed by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin. 


It's very difficult to compare the two budgets in any sort of straight comparison, because the Ryan budget assumes some miracles will occur (at least as far as Republicans are concerned), whereas the Murray budget is dealing with real numbers and laws. 

For instance, the Ryan budget assumes that the Affordable Care Act (also called Obamacare) will be repealed before the beginning of the next fiscal year.  Since House Republicans have tried and failed to repeal it 33 times, it is pure fancy to write a budget document that assumes its repeal.  The Ryan budget also calls for nearly $2 trillion in entitlement cuts, another virtual nonstarter, which aren't even specified in the budget.  All in all, the Ryan plan slashes $6 trillion in spending over the next ten years.  There are no new revenues in the Ryan budget.

The Murray plan cuts spending, too, but also increases revenues by an equal amount.  Revenues would come from closing loopholes for corporations and the wealthy, and are estimated in the Murray budget to come to about $1 trillion, while cutting spending by a like amount.  The spending cuts would come from modest cuts to health care providers, the Pentagon, domestic agencies and interest payments on the debt.  However, Senate Democrats want to restore about $1.2 trillion in automatic budget cuts that occurred under the sequester, too, so the Murray budget would end up increasing spending slightly. 

Spending - The Ryan Budget

Revenue - The Ryan Budget

Spending - The Murray Budget

Revenue -- The Murray Budget

Of course, the final budget will probably look like neither of these.  Ryan's budget is not only a political nonstarter, it's based in magical thinking that simply won't be reality.  The ACA is not going to be repealed, nor will seniors stand for privatization of Medicare.  The Murray budget is more realistic, but is light on details in some key areas, especially Social Security.  Still, this provides the interested reader with the starting points for what is expected to be a lively budget battle in the coming months.


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