House Budget Committee to Tighten the Federal Belt

House Budget Committee to Tighten the Federal Belt

During his run as head of the House Budget Committee, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin never managed to see any of his budgets signed into law through regular order, primarily because the Democratic controlled Senate never managed to pass a budget of its own. However, he made himself a hero to the conservative movement by proposing budgets that slashed spending on the social safety net and other government spending in an effort to balance the budget.

It may seem difficult to imagine that the Republican Party could find a more hard-core fiscal conservative than Ryan to run the House Budget Committee now that he is term-limited out of his chair. However, in Rep. Tom Price of Georgia, the incoming Budget Committee head, the GOP appears to have found just that.

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Price was a supporter of the various Ryan budget plans that cleared the House over the past few years, but the Georgian is, by some measures, even more conservative than Ryan. The American Conservative Union, which gives Ryan a lifetime ranking of 90.67, rates Price at 96.89.

Not only does Price rate very near the top among conservative groups that rank politician positions, he also wears the disapproval of liberal groups as a badge of honor. Abortion rights groups, gay rights advocates, gun-control activists and more all rate Price at 0 percent in terms of his agreement with their positions.

A physician by training, Price is an ardent foe of the Affordable Care Act, and authored one of the only bills introduced by the Republican Party that has been considered a possible substitute for Obamacare, the Empowering Patients First Act.

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After he was named incoming Budget Committee chair earlier this month, Price promised, “In the new Congress, the House Budget Committee will help lead the charge in addressing our nation’s fiscal and economic challenges by focusing on solutions that strengthen America at home and abroad and promote opportunity for American families.”

That, of course, is the typical anodyne statement of an incoming chair that could mean anything. Close your eyes and listen to it, and it would be hard to tell if the speaker is a Republican or a Democrat.

However, the seriousness with which Price is likely to pursue his position as budget chair is underlined by the fact that he most likely gave up a seat in the U.S. Senate to get it. When Georgia Saxby Chambliss announced that he would not seek reelection this year, Price was seen as the prohibitive favorite to win the seat, but he declined to run. The speculation was that he knew Ryan’s being term limited would give him the gavel of an important committee in a Congress controlled by fellow Republicans.

When it comes to budget policy, Price favors tax cuts and reduced government spending. He has spoken in favor of the controversial practice of “dynamic scoring,” which would require the Congressional Budget Office and Joint Committee on Taxation to consider the macroeconomic effects of major budgetary changes.

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Advocates of lower taxes regard this as a boon, because they assume that tax cuts stimulate growth, which in turn creates more tax revenue. By that math, tax cuts become easier to justify from a budgetary perspective, because they have a smaller impact on the federal deficit and debt.

As it stands, with Republican Sen. Mike Enzi of Wyoming chairing the Senate Budget Committee, Price could be the first House Budget Committee Chair from either party to see a concurrent budget resolution passed through the committee under regular order, and supplemented by 12 required spending bills actually become law.

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