As the days tick by for the Congress until a summer break, it’s clear that despite a lot of talk from lawmakers in both sides, there is still a resistance to the idea of Congress paying for things the way most families would deal with their own budget.
For example, if you needed to cut $200 out of your budget for this year, you would cut $200 out of your budget.
But in Congress, you cut out $200 over 10 years.
And on Thursday, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) took to the Senate floor to say it’s time that type of budgetary gimmick comes to an end.
Coburn used a stop at a fast food restaurant to drive home his point.
“If you went to Wendy’s this afternoon and said, ‘Give me a double cheeseburger, and by the way, over the next 10 years, I’m going to pay for it,’ most Americans would not say it’s paid for,” the Oklahoma Republican said.
“Somebody has to start saying no,” Coburn added.
And so, Coburn stood on the Senate floor and blocked what seemed like routine approval of a bill that extended sanctions on Burma, modified some rules for a free trade deal with certain Central American nations and a package of trade provisions for countries in Africa, because of how it was paid for.
If you look up S. 3326, you will see there are two ways the bill is paid for – one is by extending certain customs fees and by accelerating the time for payment of corporate taxes.
Basically, the customs fees that are collected through 2022 – a total of $197 million – would offset the cost of this bill.
So, now we go back to Sen. Coburn’s cheeseburger example.
In this case, lawmakers are going to buy a burger, but instead of paying for it today, the Congress would save up the money until 2022, and pay for it ten years later.
“If we can’t even find $200 million, in a $3.6 trillion budget, we are unqualified to be here,” Coburn said in an exasperated tone.
“I don’t get it, the American people don’t get it,” said Coburn.
“No wonder we have a 9 percent approval rating.”
And so, Coburn blocked the bill, much to the displeasure of certain Senators, as the provisions need to be renewed in coming weeks.
On the Senate floor, Coburn recounted how one senior Republican had reprimanded him a few years back for trying to force Congress to pay for a certain bill; the message was “that’s the way things are done.”
That, Coburn argues is why we have such a huge national debt.
If Coburn really wants to block bills that are paid for with budgetary gimmicks, it could be an interesting rest of the year.
But it’s a threat I have heard before over the years.
We’ll see what happens next week.