Originally published in the Winter 2020 edition of the Virginia Defender, issue 61, printed February 17. Reproduced here in for accessibility and archival purposes. To find other stories in the Winter 2020 issue or to download the full PDF, see this post. For the full web catalog, see our Full Issues page.
Virginia senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, both Democrats, have joined forces with Republicans to advance sweeping budget legislation that could trigger trillions of dollars in cuts to Medicare, Medicaid food stamps and other social programs – and potentially hobble the agenda of the next president.
The Bipartisan Congressional Budget Reform Act (S.2765), authored by Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), passed out of the Senate Budget Committee on Nov. 6. The legislation is co-sponsored by five members of the Senate Democratic caucus: Whitehouse, Kaine, Warner, Chris Coons (Del.) and Angus King (I-Maine).
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee and a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, issued a statement opposing the legislation.
“This new proposed process comes less than two years after Republicans on this Committee showed no hesitation in adding $2 trillion to the deficit in order to pass the Trump tax cuts for the wealthiest families and the most profitable corporations in America,” said Sanders.
Title IV of S.2765 “would create an automatic process to slash potentially trillions of dollars from programs like Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, and Obamacare subsidies,” according to David Dayen of The American Prospect, a liberal quarterly magazine and online daily based in Washington, D.C.
According to the bill, a budget resolution would pass in the first year of a new Congress. The next year, on Feb. 15, the Congressional Budget Office would compare the debt/GDP ratio projected in the budget resolution to a new projection that incorporates the evidence of the past year. If the new projection exceeds the budget resolution’s, that would trigger a special, automatic “reconciliation” process to effectively wipe out that gap.
For the most part, cuts would have to come out of mandatory programs, like health spending and nutrition assistance for the poor. (Social Security is protected from reconciliation and could not be cut.)
The vote to advance S.2765 out of the Senate Budget Committee came after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Democrats must commit to so-called “pay-go” rules, which require all new spending to be offset with budget cuts or tax increases.
Progressives have warned that adherence to conservative pay-go rules would completely undermine any possibility of Medicare for All, a Green New Deal and other ambitious goals.
“Any left-wing president will have to deal with the Pelosi problem: the existence of powerful Democrats who are too wedded to big money to accept an ambitious program,” The Nation’s Jeet Heer wrote.
Editor’s note: Information in this story comes from an article published by Common Dreams, as well as our own independent research.
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