December 20, 2010

Taxpayers received a rare, albeit small and temporary, victory late last week when Senate Democrats were forced to shelve a pork-laden omnibus bill after establishment Republicans withdrew their support. Instead, Congress will now pass a continuing resolution to fund the government at current levels until the new Congress is seated in January.

The Washington Post nicely summed up what would be a fitting end to the 111th Congress’s two-year spend-a-thon:

The majority leader’s surrender on the spending bill marked a final rebuke for this Congress to the old-school system of funding the government, in which the barons of the Appropriations Committee decided which states would receive tens of millions of dollars each year.

Republicans will crow that they succeeded in preventing a repudiated lame-duck Congress from handing out political Christmas candy on its way out the door—and to a certain extent they’re right. But it also means that the GOP will have to craft long-term funding measures of their own when their new members take office next month. That’s when we will see how serious Republicans are about adhering to the belt-tightening mandate handed up by voters in November.

Republicans had better be just as serious about cutting spending as they were in stopping Democrats from increasing taxes. Prior to the death of the omnibus bill, taxpayers received a reprieve from a massive tax hike scheduled for the first of the year. Unfortunately, the tax bill contained additional spending and no spending cuts, which will mean even more debt if Republicans don’t get their act together next year.

For far too long, Republicans have fixated on tax cuts without lifting a finger to get the spending side of the ledger under control. With Democrats seemingly never able to spend enough, the result has been a major expansion of the federal government and skyrocketing debt. Only substantial spending cuts combined with a reduction in the scope of the federal government’s activities can prevent a fiscal calamity.

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