February 5, 2013 in City

Risch, Crapo vow spending fight

Senators’ votes stress commitment to budget cuts
Kip Hill Correspondent

WASHINGTON – As the U.S. Senate gets set to deliver a promised budget, the Idaho delegation last week showed it would fight any measure that fails to significantly cut spending.

Sens. Jim Risch and Mike Crapo voted against both the debt limit suspension and the $50 billion relief package for states affected by Hurricane Sandy. The two Republicans favored amendments that would have offset the spending increases through discretionary spending cuts, which were ultimately defeated.

“Budget agreements in the last Congress set the precedent that any increase in the debt ceiling should be equally matched with spending cuts,” the senators said in a joint statement released after the debt limit suspension was passed.

The debt-ceiling bill made its way to the Senate floor after House Republicans pushed the measure through two weeks ago. It abolishes the more than $14 trillion credit limit of the federal government through May 18 and stipulates that members of Congress will have their pay withheld until they pass a budget resolution.

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, a Seattle-area Democrat serving as the new chair of the Senate’s Budget Committee, has said that will happen this spring. If a budget resolution passes the Senate, it would be the chamber’s first since 2009. But Senate Democrats will have to deal with Republican counterparts, Crapo and Risch among them, clamoring for spending cuts to balance the budget.

“The problem is simply that the government spends too much and has so far refused to enact meaningful policies that will bring common sense back to our federal budgeting process,” Crapo said Monday in a statement.

For her part, Murray has vowed to protect spending programs like Medicare and Pell grants in her budget proposal. Senate Democratic leadership has also signaled tax rate increases would likely be part of their deal.

While an amendment to the Sandy deal proved unpopular, it garnered a few Democratic votes. The amendment, pushed by Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, called for a decade-long assurance that federal debt limit increases would be matched by spending cuts totaling $3 trillion.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus said Portman’s cuts would cause irreparable harm.

“The method suggested by the Senator from Ohio is a step backward,” Baucus said. The amendment failed on a 52-46 vote.

Crapo serves alongside Murray on the Budget Committee. No committee hearings have been scheduled, and the body has a legal deadline of April 1 to bring a resolution to the floor.

Kip Hill, a student in the University of Missouri Washington, D.C., Reporting Program, is a correspondent for The Spokesman-Review.

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