Senate Democrats Oppose Balancing Own Budget, Even with Tax Increases

Matt Cover | March 22, 2013 | 1:33pm EDT
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In this Aug. 16, 2010 file photo, Democratic U.S. Senator Patty Murray smiles at a celebration of Social Security at a senior center in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

( – Senate Democrats Thursday roundly opposed balancing their own budget under any circumstances, rejecting an offer from GOP Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) – the Budget Committee’s ranking Republican – that would have allowed them to balance their budget in any way they wanted.

Sessions introduced a motion to send the budget offered by Senate Democrats back to committee to allow them to balance their budget in any way they wished – even through tax increases. Democrats roundly rejected the idea, claiming that their budget was already balanced, because it took what they called a “balanced approach” to spending and taxation.

Democratic senators seized on the semantic meaning of the word ‘balance,’ trying to argue that their budget was already well-balanced despite running large deficits every year for the next decade.

Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) argued that her budget was already balanced enough. Murray claimed that Sessions’ motion would result in the House budget plan written by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).

“The motion to recommit that the senators on the other side have offered simply says we’re going to go back to committee until we get the Ryan bill in front of us,” Murray said.

Sessions’ motion required no such thing, only instructing the Budget Committee, which Murray controls, to produce a balanced budget.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said that the Democrats’ budget was “balanced in many ways.”

“I want to argue the point,” she said. “I think it is in fact the only budget between this budget and the Republican budget in the House – which is the one embraced by Republicans – is balanced in many ways.”

Boxer argued that Democrats’ budget, while not achieving “numerical balance” was better at balancing the various priorities of the federal government with the need for the government to get its debt under control.

“It also moves toward numerical balance in ways that economists of all sides and stripes think is wise,” Boxer said, admitting that the Democrats’ budget doesn’t actually balance at all. “Which is get this deficit down to three percent of GDP.”

“I want a balanced budget,” Boxer said.

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) said that Democrats’ budget “balances” by raising taxes and cutting spending by equal amounts.

“Senator Murray mentioned balance, and I really want to talk about that. This chart really points out the fact of how balanced the [Democrat] budget really is,” Cardin said, pointing to a large chart showing how the various congressional budget proposals handled spending and revenues.

Sessions himself took to the floor to point out that while Democrats had used the word

“balanced” some 30 times in as many minutes, they were in fact rejecting his offer to produce a budget that actually balanced.

“The budget produced by the majority doesn’t balance, doesn’t come close to balancing, does not change in any way, measurably, the debt course we are on,” Sessions said. “Therefore, it is a bankrupt budget about to bankrupt America.”

“They have used – we’ve counted now – over 30 times the word ‘balanced’. We’ve heard ‘a balanced approach’ [and] ‘a balanced plan,’ ‘a balanced approach,’ ‘a balanced plan,’ but it does not balance,” Sessions said.

The Senate Democrats’ budget does not, in fact, ever balance over the next decade, merely reducing deficits to 2.2 percent of GDP by 2023, according to the Congressional Budget Office, in part by raising nearly $1 trillion in new taxes.

The budget blueprint written by Murray accumulates $5.2 trillion in deficit spending by 2023, and never runs a deficit of less than $400 billion in any one year.

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