House and Senate Republicans who so far have successfully avoided talking about how their tax and spending policies are spiking the budget deficit won’t be able to pretend for much longer that the United States isn’t staring directly into a GOP-created fiscal policy abyss.
The U.S. Treasury and the Congressional Budget Office will issue separate reports just weeks before Election Day that show the actual 2018 deficit between $800 and $900 billion and the estimated 2019 deficit exceeding $1 trillion. The fiscal 2017 deficit was $665 billion.
The deficit numbers the GOP had hoped to bury at least until after the election will soon be available for all to see.
House and Senate Republicans so far have been able to avoid talking about the deficit by making a complete mockery of the Congressional Budget Act. Even though Congress is required by federal law to adopt an annual budget resolution (the only legislation all year that compares total revenues with total spending and forces representatives and senators to vote on the deficit), the GOP leadership decided early in 2018 to prevent that from happening.
No budget resolution meant no budget debate. No debate meant no media coverage. No coverage meant Republicans wouldn’t be asked to explain their votes in favor of trillion-dollar deficits when they had previously and emphatically demanded that the federal budget be balanced.
This cleverness will end when Treasury and CBO issue their reports this October in the final days of a fierce election. That will put the GOP’s breach of faith with its fiscal past on full display for all to see, report on, criticize and make snarky 280 character comments about.
Given the Trump administration’s efforts to control the narrative on all issues and run roughshod over established rules and procedures, and given the president’s more-than-obvious belief that federal departments exist solely to do his bidding, delaying Treasury’s report until after the election would seem like something it would consider.
But while it’s possible that the White House could concoct a reason to order the report be held until after the election, Treasury’s Monthly Treasury Statement is expected, used and relied on by Wall Street. Delaying it for obvious political reasons may be a theoretical option but just isn’t likely.
In addition, the Congressional Budget Office has shown no willingness whatsoever to knuckle under to political pressure and so will almost certainly release its own Monthly Budget Review this October no matter what the Republican leadership demands it to do.
That means that the deficit numbers the GOP had hoped to bury at least until after the election will soon be publicly available.
This timing could not be worse for Republicans. Congress plans to be out of session by the time these two reports are issued so there will be no chance for the GOP incumbents running for reelection even to do something — like voting for a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution — before the election.
In addition, on top of all the recent multiple swamp-like events involving Trump former and former allies, this soon-to-be-confirmed break with long-time GOP deficit orthodoxy is almost certain to push a number of more traditional Republicans to reconsider if or how they will vote this November.
Don’t Forget To Follow Stan Collender on Twitter @thebudgetguy
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