Yarmuth: Budget Talks ‘Not Going Very Well,” Sees Them Going Into September

June 12, 2019 by Dan McCue
Yarmuth: Budget Talks ‘Not Going Very Well,” Sees Them Going Into September
Representative John Yarmuth, D-Ky., chairman of the House Budget Committee, on stage at the Peterson Foundation's annual Fiscal Summit in Washington D.C. (Photo courtesy the Peter G. Peterson Foundation)

WASHINGTON – Negotiations between House Democrats, the GOP-controlled Senate and the White House over a 2020 budget plan “are not going very well” and could very well extend to the September 30 deadline to avoid automatic spending caps, the chairman of the House Budget Committee said Tuesday.

Speaking at the Peterson Foundation’s annual Fiscal Summit in Washington D.C., Representative John Yarmuth, D-Ky., said during his seven terms in Congress he’s lived through “every possible permutation of partisan control,” but that at the end of the day, whatever the issue, agreements were forged through what “was basically a two-sided negotiation.”

That ended with the election of President Trump, Yarmuth said during an onstage Q&A with The Washington Post’s Heather Long.

“Now it’s a three-sided negotiation and one of the sides is, to be as gentle as I can be, unpredictable,” he said.

“I don’t think there would be any problem at all getting Senate and House agreement on spending levels,” he continued. “We’ve done it before and I think we did it in a very responsible way, where nobody walked away ecstatic, but nobody was angry.”

“I’ve spoken to [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell … and Mitch definitely wants a two-year spending deal,” he said.

McConnell’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

If no agreement is reached, automatic caps will take effect on October 1 that reduce both domestic and military spending by a total of $125 billion, a scenario Yarmuth said no one would want in the run up to an election year.

Yarmuth believes the budget deal struck by Congress and the White House 18 months ago would have been a good starting point for the current negotiations, and he said many of his Republican counterparts agreed.

The White House has other ideas, he said.

Democrats Being Ignored As Budget Talks Proceed

“[Acting White House Chief of Staff] Mick Mulvaney wants to keep defense spending at a very high level and slash non-defense spending. This is a nonstarter in the House. And on top of this, the president has his own ideas about what he wants,” Yarmuth said.

As he spoke, a group of Republican senators was headed to the White House to talk about the budget and the spending caps.

“That’s typical of the negotiations; that there are no Democrats there,” he said. “They seem to forget we now control the House of Representatives.”

Yarmuth said the red line for Democrats in this and all budget negotiations is that defense and nondefense spending be treated equally.

“We call it parity,” he said.

“Now, I know different people define parity in different ways, but I define it this way: whatever we do in regard to defense spending, we also do with non-defense spending. If we raise defense spending a certain amount, we need to raise non-defense spending by the same amount.

“The same goes for cuts,” he added.

 

Yarmuth said he believes the odds are strongly against a budget agreement by the August congressional recess, his having been told that Mulvaney wants to push negotiations as close to the September 30 deadline as possible.

“I have not talked to Mick about this, but I know that he’s told people he wants this to go right to the deadline because he thinks that enhances the White House’s bargaining position,” Yarmuth said.

“But again, this brings to mind Mitch McConnell,” he continued. “He’s up for re-election in my state next year, and I don’t think that he wants to have any threat of a shutdown this year because it will clearly hurt the Republicans. They would be blamed for it. And I suspect that’s what they will tell the president when they meet with him.”

For his part, Mulvaney, appearing at the same fiscal summit, told CNBC’s Eamon Javers that he believes lawmakers in both the House and Senate are disinterested in fiscal responsibility.

“There is no center of gravity for reduced spending in this town,” Mulvaney said.

Debt Ceiling Likely Going Up Again

Yarmuth predicted that if a deal can’t be struck, Congress will be forced to raise the debt ceiling.

“I think we’d have to, no question,” he said. “First of all, because we have an awful lot of necessities we’ve neglected over the last decade or so. On top of that — while we can argue about what the appropriate levels of defense spending are — an awful lot of the spending on the non-defense side is national security-related — funding Homeland Security, the FBI, the FDA … the FAA.

“So to have the cuts the Budget Control Act of 2011 requires take effect, I think, would be devastating for a lot of very important priorities,” he said.

But Yarmuth said he would like to do more than raise the debt ceiling — he’d like to dispense with it altogether.

“We have raised the debt ceiling something like 80 times since it was created,” he said. “We are the only country in the world other than Denmark that has anything like it.

“All it does is create an opportunity for gridlock and another cliff that we look over the edge of … And it’s used for more for political leverage than to promote any kind of sound fiscal policy,  so we might as well get rid of it.”

What then, to do about the nation’s current $22 trillion debt, a huge concern to the majority of those attending the Peterson Foundation summit?

The federal government’s deficit typically shrinks during robust economic times, but the deficit is up nearly 40 percent so far this fiscal year, according to the latest Congressional Budget Office report released Friday.

Spending is up $255 billion for the first eight months of the fiscal year, while revenues are up only $49 billion, the CBO said.

Yarmuth said he was as frustrated as many in the room.

“Last year, I was part of a member of the joint select committee on budget and appropriations process, a bicameral, bipartisan group,” he said. We went at it for a year, trying to figure out if there were ways, structurally, to enforce spending discipline on the federal government.

“At the end of that time, nothing we came up with got enough votes to pass out of committee and be considered on the floor. You had to get 10 out of 16 votes to bring anything to the floor, and none of the things we came up with did.

“So I’m not sure there is a mechanism you can adopt to ensure spending discipline,” Yarmuth added. “This is, always, about political courage. it’s not about process.”

A+
a-
  • debt ceiling
  • deficit
  • Federal budget
  • House Budget Committee
  • Representative John Yarmuth
  • In The News

    Health

    Voting

    Willie Mays Appreciation: The 'Say Hey Kid' Inspired Generations With Talent and Exuberance

    SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Long after “The Catch” and his 660 home runs, and the daring sprints around the bases with his... Read More

    SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Long after “The Catch” and his 660 home runs, and the daring sprints around the bases with his hat falling off, Willie Mays could still command a room like no other. Mays was a frequent visitor to the downtown ballpark in San Francisco at... Read More

    Tropical Storm Alberto Moves Inland Over Northeast Mexico as Season's First Named Storm

    TAMPICO, Mexico (AP) — Tropical Storm Alberto, the season’s first named storm, rumbled ashore early Thursday and moved inland over... Read More

    TAMPICO, Mexico (AP) — Tropical Storm Alberto, the season’s first named storm, rumbled ashore early Thursday and moved inland over northeast Mexico, bringing heavy rains to the parched region and leaving at least three dead. The storm was expected to weaken rapidly over land, but carry... Read More

    Bob Good Hopes Final Vote Count Will Put Him Ahead of Trump-Endorsed Challenger

    RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Conservative U.S. Rep. Bob Good, R-Va., is asking for “patience from the people of the 5th... Read More

    RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Conservative U.S. Rep. Bob Good, R-Va., is asking for “patience from the people of the 5th District over the coming weeks” as he hopes the final ballot count from Tuesday's primary will allow him to fend off a challenger endorsed by former... Read More

    June 20, 2024
    by Tom Ramstack
    Washington Commanders Settle Lawsuit Alleging Team Withheld Ticket Holders’ Deposits

    WASHINGTON — Virginia’s attorney general this week announced a $1.3 million settlement with the Washington Commanders after the football team... Read More

    WASHINGTON — Virginia’s attorney general this week announced a $1.3 million settlement with the Washington Commanders after the football team was accused of improperly withholding deposits by season ticket holders. The Virginia settlement, which is the largest so far, follows similar settlements with the attorneys general... Read More

    June 19, 2024
    by Anna Claire Miller
    New Protections Unveiled for Undocumented Spouses and Their Kids

    WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Tuesday announced his administration will offer potential citizenship to any  immigrant without legal status... Read More

    WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Tuesday announced his administration will offer potential citizenship to any  immigrant without legal status who has lived in the country for 10 years and been married to a U.S. citizen for an extended period of time. This new policy could... Read More

    June 18, 2024
    by Tom Ramstack
    Senators Want More Transit Hubs to Help Reduce Housing Costs

    WASHINGTON — A Senate panel strategized Tuesday during a hearing on ways to stimulate transit-oriented development with government funding. Transit-oriented... Read More

    WASHINGTON — A Senate panel strategized Tuesday during a hearing on ways to stimulate transit-oriented development with government funding. Transit-oriented development refers to urban planning that integrates high-density residential, commercial and recreational spaces within walking distance of public transit hubs. It is supposed to give a... Read More

    News From The Well
    scroll top