The House managed last night finally to pass reconciliation, which is a sign that Republicans aren’t quite in total meltdown. But it still isn’t a pretty picture. Was just talking to Brian Riedl of Heritage about it. He says its distressing that there is all this drama passing a budget that only takes the rate of growth of entitlements from 39% to 38%. Republicans are straining to produce a reconciliation bill that saves $35-50 billion or so over 5 years, when the three reconciliation bills in the 1990s saved $447 billion, $244 billion and $232 billion according to Riedl (in 1990, 1993, and 1997 respectively). Meanwhile, a health and education spending bill was defeated on the floor yesterday, partly because it didn’t have enough pork in it to entice GOP members. Here is how the Washington Post describes it:
The drama exposed a basic struggle among congressional Republicans as they try to wrap up their 2005 legislative business and look a year down the road to the midterm elections. To reverse declining poll numbers, conservative lawmakers want the GOP to renounce pork-barrel politics and shrink the size of government. But following through means painful choices that will affect important constituencies. Those earmarks — whether for locals roads, or hospitals, or job training centers — are especially irresistible.
“We made a serious effort to reduce the patterns of spending in this gigantic bill. Then we made the gigantic and controversial step of saying no to projects,” said Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. “The combination of that was too much for them to swallow.”