Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi unveils 2020 budget blueprint

Five-year plan would reduce deficits by more than $538 billion

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi on Friday unveiled a federal budget for 2020 that includes some of President Trump’s entitlement spending trims but ditches his defense spending gimmicks and rosy economic assumptions.

The Wyoming Republican’s plan leaves open the possibility of hitting Mr. Trump’s $750 billion goal for defense spending, but only if Congress can agree to a deal to raise spending caps that likely also means a short-term spike in domestic spending — which Mr. Trump has opposed.

Mr. Enzi’s plan does track the president’s blueprint on sweating savings out of entitlement spending programs such as Medicare, though, where the chairman says $551 billion can be saved over the next five years.

Mr. Enzi called his plan a “responsible first step” to begin to tame deficits, which are projected to top $1 trillion a year for most of the next decade.

“It supports reasonable reforms to mandatory spending programs and works to improve efficiency and accountability for how taxpayer dollars are spent, ensuring that government programs deliver results,” the senator said.

Mr. Trump’s own budget, released earlier this month, says the budget can be balanced over 15 years through a combination of steep spending cuts and projections of economic growth unparalleled in modern U.S. history.

Mr. Enzi is countering with a five-year budget, which he said includes “achievable” cuts and would keep the deficit below $1 trillion a year.

His plan is an important marker for congressional Republicans, giving them a different vision than Mr. Trump’s, though whether the Senate will take up a budget this year is in doubt.

Democrats, who control the House, are struggling to write a budget, pulled between left-wing lawmakers who want the budget to tackle global warming and health care, and more moderate Democrats who say those policies are unrealistic.

Mr. Enzi’s plan sets as a benchmark a total of $750 billion in defense funding for 2020, which is in line with Mr. Trump’s request, but he also leaves in place current budget caps that would limit spending to far less than that.

It would take a new bipartisan deal to raise the caps. Such deals have been common over the past decade, but they’ve always included increases in domestic spending along with defense.

The president got around the cap for defense in his 2020 budget proposal by relying heavily on a special war fund that’s exempt from the limits — a move roundly criticized by budget-watchers as a major gimmick.

Mr. Enzi’s plan, meanwhile, is less reliant on the war fund. It also calls for offsets in the long run to make up for would-be spending increases in any caps deal.

Also unlike the president’s plan, which assumes the economy will grow by about 3 percent on average over the next decade, Mr. Enzi’s outline uses Congressional Budget Office projections of growth of less than 2 percent on average.

Budget resolutions don’t have the power to change policy, but Mr. Enzi’s plan includes a reserve fund for an Obamacare “repeal and replace” plan that would also address coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.

It also instructs five committees, including the tax-writing finance committee, to produce legislation that would reduce the deficit by at least $94 billion over five years through a mechanism known as reconciliation.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC

By:  David Sherfinski
Source: Washington Times