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House GOP seeks ‘unprecedented’ new powers over budget

 House GOP seeks unprecedented new powers over budget

Democrats and non-partisan policy experts alike expressed outraged at new rules proposed by House Republicans that would allow the incoming House Budget Committee chairman to unilaterally set spending ceilings.

Under one of the proposed rules (.pdf), Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), who is expected to be the next House Budget Committee chairman, will be allowed to submit spending and revenue limits that “shall be considered as the completion of congressional action on a concurrent resolution on the budget for fiscal year 2011.”

Ryan is best known for his his radical plan to balance the budget by privatizing Social Security and Medicare.

Robert Greenstein and James R. Horney of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities described the new powers as “stunning and unprecedented.”

“In the absence of a budget resolution agreement between the House and the Senate, it appears that Rep. Ryan (presumably with the concurrence of the Republican leadership) will be allowed to set enforceable spending and revenue limits, with any departure from those limits subject to being ruled ‘out of order,'” they wrote.

“This rule change has immediate, far-reaching implications. It means that by voting to adopt the proposed new rules on January 5, a vote on which party discipline will be strictly enforced, the House could effectively be adopting a budget resolution and limits for appropriations bills that it has never even seen, much less debated and had an opportunity to amend. (There is no requirement for Representative Ryan to make his proposed spending and revenue limits available to Members or the public before the vote on the new rules,)” Greenstein and Horney added.

Democrats said Thursday that the new rules show that Republicans aren’t taking promises of transparency seriously.

“Allowing incoming Chairman Ryan to have unilateral power to set spending limits — instead of subjecting those limits to a vote on the floor of the House — flies in the face of promises by House Republicans to have the most transparent and honest Congress in history,” Doug Thornell, a spokesman for incoming House Budget Committee ranking member Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), told The Hill.

“Unfortunately, the House GOP is reverting back to the same arrogant governing style they implemented when they last held the majority and turned a surplus into a huge deficit,” he wrote.

The decision to give up power to Ryan “runs counter to the Republicans’ promises of transparency and accountability,” incoming House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) spokesman, Drew Hammill, said.

The proposed provisions would also replace the current House pay-as-you-go rule with a weaker cut-as-you-go rule. Under the cut-as-you-go rule, increases in spending would have to be paid for, but tax cuts would not.

“To simultaneously pave the way for both deficit-financed extensions of massive tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and termination of critical tax-credit measures that keep several million low-income working parents and their children out of poverty represents a set of priorities that can aptly be described as worthy of Ebenezer Scrooge,” Greenstein and Horney observed.

“The Republican rules package is a clear statement of their values: rigging the rules so they can continue to pursue tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and corporations who ship American jobs overseas,” Hammill said.

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