Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Era of Bipartisan PAYGO Is Over

The Senate amendment to enact statutory pay-as-you-go passed 60-40. By agreement among members of the World's Laziest Deliberative Body, this amendment required 60 votes to pass. Zero Republicans voted for it. This meas deficit peacocks like Judd Gregg, John McCain, George Voinovich, and moderates such as Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe couldn't bring themselves to support it. Had Scott Brown been sworn in, unless he had a sudden bout of conscience, the amendment would not have passed.

The commitment to PAYGO was probably the singular most important instrument in driving down the deficit during the 1990s. It forces Congress to make actual decisions about budgeting, not fantasy Republican decisions as we saw during the Bush years. But since it might be a back-door way of making it slightly more likely that taxes might be increased a smidge, or since it might be some sort of legislative victory for Democrats, every single Republican remained opposed to it.

I hope that the Peterson Foundation and other balanced-budget types keep this in mind the next time they think there's a bipartisan commitment to get the deficit under control.

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