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Posted at 8:28 AM ET, 03/ 1/2011

What if Congress voted every two weeks on the budget?

By Jennifer Rubin

The House is going forward with its proposed short-term extension of the Continuing Resolution (CR), as Majority Leader Eric Cantor made clear at a news conference yesterday:

As far as the CR is concerned, about ten days ago, we took the steps in the House to begin to get our fiscal house in order. We passed a CR that reduced spending back to '08 levels, and we did so in the hopes that we could avoid a government shutdown and deliver on the promise of reducing the size of government by cutting spending. It is very clear now where we sit. The House has acted. We don't support the status quo. Just like the voters said last November, they want to see a change here in Washington.

Thus far, in the Senate, Harry Reid seems to be doing nothing but supporting the status quo. There has been no action taken from the other side of the Capitol in the Senate. We are waiting anxiously to see that action.

We have also heard reports now and seen statements made by Leader Reid, Chuck Schumer and others over there, that they may be willing to entertain cuts. I think that is really good news. We have even seen some indication that the Senate would be willing to accept our proposal of $4 billion worth of cuts for a temporary two-week extension. And that is exactly what we will be bringing to the floor this week, which is a temporary extension of the CR that reflects a prorated amount from our larger bill that was passed two weeks ago. Again, this is $4 billion savings for two weeks.

But, as of last night, there had been no deal struck with Reid. Indeed, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner confirmed that there hadn't even been direct discussions with Reid.

A senior Republican adviser on the Senate side predicted: "We'll pass the two-week bill later in the week." What about the remainder of the 2011 budget and the proposed $61 billion in House cuts? "It's going to be a fight for the remainder," the adviser said.

But think about that. Wouldn't a fight every two weeks between Republicans wanting to cut spending and Democrats refusing to make cuts be a boon to the GOP? After all, the Democrats' calculation, namely that a week off in their districts would convince Republicans how unpopular the cuts were, has proven faulty. It's an odd way to run the government, but a series of short-term extensions with a pro-rated amount of spending reduction totaling up to $61 billion sounds like a nightmare for the White House and the Democratic congressional leadership. There could be no better illustration of the Democrats' defense of the big-government status quo.

By Jennifer Rubin  | March 1, 2011; 8:28 AM ET
Categories:  Budget  
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Reid is becoming stranger and stranger. He takes a week off in the face of an impending crisis and talks about the state issue of prostitution. He comes back to Washington and decides the most important thing for the Senate to address is patent reform.

Earlier, he has told us these very minor proposed budget cuts are "draconian". To Harry Reid, our $3.7 trillion budget is so "lean and mean", cutting 2% is "draconian". Therefore, Reid plays ostrich, sticks his head in the sand, and ignores the need for a continuing resolution to fund the government.

The Democrats sure are lucky to be able to follow good ol' Harry off the cliff like the rest of the lemmings.

Posted by: RickCaird | March 1, 2011 8:59 AM | Report abuse

House Republicans have done the hard part by producing the CR that funds the government for the rest of the fiscal year at a reduced level; the Senate response has been noise. This week they’ll bring to the floor a two-week CR that cuts $4B, much of which Obama wants to cut anyway; the Senate response has been more hot air.

If this keeps up, the Senate may be forced to accept the latest House CR at the last minute in order to keep the government open. Do Reid and Schumer really think they can ram through a bill to their liking and then prevail in a reconciliation session?

The clock is ticking, stay tuned…

Posted by: SCMike1 | March 1, 2011 9:06 AM | Report abuse

Yes, the public will love the fact that with Republicans in control of the House, Congress had to spend its time on a new budget resolution every two weeks. Please do it in 2012 as well. The optics will be wonderful.

Posted by: oldabandonedbeachhouse | March 1, 2011 9:19 AM | Report abuse

Yes, the public will love the fact that with Republicans in control of the House, Congress had to spend its time on a new budget resolution every two weeks. Please do it in 2012 as well. The optics will be wonderful.
Seriously. I can't think of a better way to stabilize the economy that injecting into it the uncertainty of whether the government will shut down every two weeks. /end sarcasm

Posted by: mustangs79 | March 1, 2011 9:27 AM | Report abuse

Revolutionaries ride in from the hills to slash spending and balance budgets, and all we get is a lousy projected 61 billion dollar trim on a 3.7 trillion dollar budget?

Is that all these tri-corner hat people are good for? And here I thought some of them actually believed what they were saying.

Posted by: member8 | March 1, 2011 9:28 AM | Report abuse

Three independent analyses have concluded that the cuts proposed by the Republicans will cost around 600K jobs and lower the GDP by a point or two. If the Dems win the messaging war (which is uncertain) the GOP will be running for cover and will try to get the whole job-killing package done at one time.

Posted by: randy1macon | March 1, 2011 9:32 AM | Report abuse

randy1macon, the problem with the economy today is a lack of aggregate demand, coupled with a 'free trade' policy which mimics the effect of a severed jugular vein.

If the government further squashes demand by cutting spending, life will get worse for most people. Which is exactly what the Republicans would like to happen, as the president is the most visible politician for people to vote against in 2 years to vent their frustrations.

The president is so desperate for a restoration of aggregate demand, he recently agreed to borrow 700 billion from China to pass out to the richest 2% in exchange for a mere 13 months of extended unemployment and a 2% payroll deduction decrease (attacking Social Security's funding mechanism in exchange for a 2% raise for us wage slaves).

Fortunately (I guess) for the president, trimming 61 billion from a 3.7 trillion dollar budget will hardly be noticed.

If the Republicans really wanted to hit the president, their spending cuts would be much larger, deliberately pushing the country back in to recession. It wouldn't hurt the billionaires they represent, and in fact by crushing labor costs with surplus unemployed - capitals finest weapon at beating down wage demands - they'd help the Kochs and others.

I'm not sure what's gotten in to these Republicans.

Posted by: member8 | March 1, 2011 9:59 AM | Report abuse


Economics is not like a controlled science experiment. All we have to work with are theories of how something will work (or won't work) when certain economic events happen (tax increases / cuts; spending increases / cuts; tax law changes; etc.). Rightly or wrongly, I think that the public with their November votes pretty much said to the politicians in the "big government" camp (which included both Bush and Obama, and the Democratic-controlled congress for the last 4 years), "we've tried it your way, we don't see the results you predicted, and now we're going to try something else." People throughout the land have tightened their own financial belts to make ends meet in a challenging economy (I know that our family has!), and they want government to respond in kind.

You like to talk about the "billionaires" that the Republicans represent, yet make no mention of the monied Democrat supporters: George Soros, trial lawyers, labor unions, Hollywood, Wall Street and the bulk of Big Business (General Electric and Microsoft, after all, were MSNBC).

Posted by: coffeetime | March 1, 2011 12:16 PM | Report abuse

"If the government further squashes demand by cutting spending, life will get worse for most people."

At what point, member8, do we have too much spending? Will there be *any* demand out there if the govt stops spending? Would we be better off if the govt confiscated 100% of our wages, and then spent that money as it sees fit?

Posted by: RitchieEmmons | March 1, 2011 12:28 PM | Report abuse

Killing bloat means getting rid of thousands of government employees (program administrators, etc). I say just reduce the government head count to only those legendary "essential government workers" that have to come in during DC snowdays. Getting rid of this dead wood would cause the programs to die on the vine.

Posted by: econrob | March 1, 2011 1:01 PM | Report abuse


Your dog don't hunt any more. Big-biz is demorat. Wall Street is completely in the camp of the demorats. Tea Party and big-biz, not so much.

Posted by: econrob | March 1, 2011 1:04 PM | Report abuse

"If the government further squashes demand by cutting spending, life will get worse for most people."

If a decrease in government spending "squashes demand" then it follows that increasing government spending stimulates demand. If this is so why was the "stimulus" package of over $900 billion in new spending (!) such an abject failure according to the Obama administrations own projections that unemployment would not exceed 8% if it passed? Obama has increased government spending by 24% (84% if you include the stimulus). Why hasn't this resulted in a very significant increase in demand? Clinton and a GOP congress kept spending well under control. Why did demand increase?

Posted by: paco33 | March 1, 2011 1:10 PM | Report abuse

It's interesting to see comments, like that of member8, that suggest all jobs come from government spending.

"If the government further squashes demand by cutting spending, life will get worse for most people. Which is exactly what the Republicans would like to happen, as the president is the most visible politician for people to vote against in 2 years to vent their frustrations."

So cutting spending of borrowed money will "squash" demand. The Democrats and their supporters seem not to believe that private economic activity is important in creating jobs. Here is the basic difference between the parties. We will see how this works out in the next few years. I don't think it is a winning concept after 45 years of experience with it.

We have never had a trial of the other way, at least since Calvin Coolidge. Maybe 2012 will see such an opportunity.

Posted by: mtkennedy | March 1, 2011 1:17 PM | Report abuse

econrob: Republicans and Democrats may fight over all the other issues, but they're in total agreement about Wall Street: Don't regulate it, don't investigate it (as much as possible), don't tax it, and follow its orders. How many went to prison for destroying the economy? None. Not surprising, they wrote the laws that supposedly govern their own conduct.

paco33: The stimulus didn't 'fail' except that it was too small. When I saw the president willing to agree to just 900 billion, I knew it was all over, at that moment. As I predicted, it failed exactly as I said it would: too small, wouldn't fix the economy, antigovernment fanatics would cheer, the very idea of Keynsian economics would be discredited. The stimulus 'failed' in exactly the same way eating an apple would 'fail' if you were starving to death. It would be something, but too little too late.

mtkennedy: the country is broke because nobody has money (well nobody in the real world - the richest 2% already spend all they're going to, and use the excess to speculate on Picasso's, Van Gogh's, gold, oil and tech stocks). The solution to nobody having money is to get people to have some money. One way to do that is to build bridges and rail lines. The salaries paid to the workers will show up in the private economy very quickly. When it's all done, you'll have something to show for it like rail lines and roads and bridges.

Posted by: member8 | March 1, 2011 2:13 PM | Report abuse

I say slash the bloated beast. The Federal Government suffers from 50 years or more of mission creep, adding program after program, layer of spending on top of layer of spending, never cutting or rationalizing programs. Too much money being wasted the just released GAO study says. Cut the beast and leave taxpayers with more money to spend...maybe on somehtign more productive then high speed trains to nowhere.

Posted by: GrouchyOldMan | March 1, 2011 3:13 PM | Report abuse

paco33: The stimulus didn't 'fail' except that it was too small.
Posted by: member8 |

Member8: First, thank you for responding to my question. Sadly, it is a courtesy that is rarely followed around here.

But (you knew there would have to be a but), if a stimulus of $900B was "too small" to increase demand, how can a budget cut of $61B, coming on the heels of a massive increase in spending in just over 2 years, "squash" demand and make "life worse for most people"?

Posted by: paco33 | March 1, 2011 3:59 PM | Report abuse

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