Boehner’s latest budget stunt shows his fiscal conservatism was always just words

On Friday, Politico described House Speaker John Boehner as having “defied conservatives” and “gone bold on [the] budget.”

And just what did the speaker do that was “fearless before danger,” “intrepid,” “showing or requiring a fearless, daring spirit?”

He pulled a legislative maneuver to pass the House Budget Committee resolution that will result in $20 billion being added to the federal debt, and is pushing for a “doc fix” that will add over $100 billion more.

Though the “doc fix” initiative is still being figured out, the dishonest budget maneuver worked:

After Boehner and other leaders huddled with Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-Ga.) and Armed Services Committee Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) for an hour on Thursday morning, leadership went with another plan — move the resolution through the Budget panel first without the additional defense money, and then add the Pentagon funding back via the Rules Committee, before the proposal hits the House floor next week.

Disappointingly, reputed fiscal conservatives like Reps. Mark Sanford of South Carolina, Marlin Stutzman of Indiana, Scott Garrett of New Jersey, and Price stood by it:

Price was then able to pass the budget resolution through his panel with unanimous GOP support, and united Democratic opposition. The vote was 22-13.

While I would like to have sympathy for Boehner — politically, he’s in a tough spot — this latest stunt is just more evidence that claims to his fiscal conservatism are just words.

The House Budget Committee’s resolution doesn’t start reforming Medicare for years. It completely ignores Social Security reform, expands the Defense Department’s overseas slush fund, and is weak on tax reform, the elimination of corporate welfare, and other important areas of necessary change.

It’s also problematic that Price, who has a fiscally conservative reputation and voting record, let this sort of thing happen in his committee.

I have some pity for the speaker; I sure wouldn’t want to be in his shoes. He’s a moderate who has to deal with a variety of political realities, including the likelihood that Senate Democrats will gum up the budget process (as they did from 2010 to 2014), House military hawks who seem to think throwing money at the Department of Defense is responsible governance, and a media that can’t wait to declare that Republicans can’t govern.

Alas, none of that justifies Boehner’s transparent willingness to throw proper governance and fiscal sanity out the window. Rather than take up substantive budget cuts and reforms, he pulled a bait-and-switch.

Perhaps worst of all, by voting for the resolution, conservatives on the Budget Committee gave Boehner their explicit support for this oddly transparent sleight-of-hand. Which indicates more problems may be on the horizon.

Dustin Siggins About the author:
Dustin Siggins is the Washington, D.C. correspondent for and a co-author of the forthcoming book, Bankrupt Legacy: The Future of the Debt-Paying Generation. Follow him on Twitter @DustinSiggins
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