As Long As You Call It An "Emergency," You Can Spend As Much As You Want
How much do Congressional Democrats actually care about the deficit? During the health care debate, they argued endlessly that the Affordable Care Act was the only fiscally responsible choice because it lowered the deficit. And they passed spending rules that, in theory, require them to come up with funding sources for all their projects.
But even if you take them at their word about the deficit estimates (I don't), it's hard to take their claims of fiscal responsibility seriously at this point. Their top legislative priorities this week are spending measures that effectively wipe out most of the deficit reduction they claimed from the health care bill.
They get around their spending rules by calling it "emergency spending," which doesn't have to be paid for. Thus we're getting hit up for a whole bunch of new emergency spending, and the CBO estimates that the deficit toll will end up at $134 billion.
Also worth noting is that the proposed spending measure includes a version of the "doc fix," a Medicare payment hike that was removed from an initial draft of the health care overhaul in order to hit deficit targets. This version is temporary—it calls for $63 billion to put off the problem for three years rather than solve it. But like the permanent doc fix that was discussed during the health care debate, it's not paid for.
Republicans are hardly better: Some of the new emergency spending is intended to fund America's ongoing war efforts. Naturally, the GOP line is that there ought to be an exception for that. According to Sen. John Thune, "Anything that's not directly related to fighting the wars should be paid for." Convenient! All together now: There is no party of fiscal responsibility.