Congressional Republicans Unite Behind Conservative Budget
Dody Eid / Romina Boccia /
The Republican Study Committee, a conservative caucus of 158 Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives, releases an annual budget called “A Framework for United Conservatism.”
Its aim is to unite conservatives in Congress behind a long-term fiscal plan.
This year’s Framework builds on the RSC’s fiscal year 2018 budget both of which embody conservative principles, sharing many similarities with Heritage’s Blueprint for Balance; 55 percent of Heritage’s proposals are fully included in the 2018 Framework.
The Heritage Blueprint serves as, in the words of Politico’s Sarah Ferris, “a conservative dream budget” for lawmakers who seek to balance the federal budget and put power back into the hands of the American people.
The 2018 RSC budget also takes significant steps towards curbing federal regulation and unleashing economic growth. Recognizing that the U.S. fiscal challenge cannot be effectively addressed without entitlement reform, RSC’s Framework puts forth recommendations to fix Medicare and Social Security.
RSC’s budget also makes significant progress in areas like agriculture, energy, welfare reform, health care, and retirement security.
Both the RSC’s Framework and Heritage’s Blueprint would eliminate or reform programs run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The policy proposals endorsed by both organizations would help to end cronyism, reduce regulation, and promote competition.
One example is a recommendation to eliminate the federal sugar program, which serves as a hidden tax on consumers by raising sugar prices.
Both the Blueprint and the Framework also recommend eliminating the USDA’s Rural Business Cooperative Service, a program which, among other things, unfairly picks winners and losers in the energy sector.
On welfare reform, the Framework and the Blueprint include three major goals: promote work and marriage, pay for outcomes rather than services, and require transparency in welfare spending and benefits.
Restructuring welfare in such a way does two things. It ensures that those who need assistance receive benefits, and it promotes a culture of self-sufficiency.
The RSC budget also makes substantial progress on Medicaid reform.
One significant proposal supported by the RSC and Heritage experts would put the program on a budget. Four categories of enrollees—children and able-bodied adults, the disabled, low-income Medicare beneficiaries, and long-term beneficiaries—should be financed separately subject to an aggregate federal spending cap. Restructuring Medicaid in this way would increase transparency and accountability while also keeping the program on a stable fiscal path.
Moreover, disaggregation of Medicaid funding would help ensure that the program would be more tailored to the specific needs of each group, protecting especially the most vulnerable from seeing their Medicaid allotment being consumed by the Medicaid expansion population.
The RSC budget also incorporates proposals to fix Social Security and Medicare. Harmonizing the age of eligibility for both of those programs, a recommendation in both the Framework and the Blueprint, is a common sense reform that would be a good step toward slowing the growth of Medicare spending.
RSC similarly includes a recommendation to combine Medicare Parts A and B, which would integrate hospital and physician services while saving billions of dollars.
These recommendations, alongside others found in both the RSC budget and the Blueprint, would allow for more focused funding to those who need assistance the most and help to curb the growth of Medicare spending, a major contributor to the national debt.
In the realm of Social Security, the RSC fully endorses Texas Republican Rep. Sam Johnson’s Social Security Reform Act of 2016, which is designed to permanently save Social Security by targeting benefits to those most in need, among other reforms.
Heritage experts identified the policies in the Johnson plan as a reasonable, targeted, and fiscally responsible approach to begin reforming Social Security.
There are some policies not yet addressed by the RSC that would be helpful in reducing the size and scope of government.
The Framework shies away from serious consideration of three major overhauls of the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs mentioned in the Blueprint: ending enrollment in VA medical care for veterans in priority groups 7 and 8, eliminating concurrent receipt of retirement pay and disability compensation, and narrowing eligibility for veterans disability by excluding disabilities unrelated to military duties.
These proposals would focus scarce dollars on veterans with the most severe disabilities and ensure better service to our veterans.
In the education sphere, the RSC ought to consider rescinding “gainful employment” regulations on for-profit higher education institutions, which would allow more flexibility for nontraditional students who seek to learn in vocational or other types of schools.
The RSC’s budget notably includes a significant number of proposals that, if implemented, would move in the right direction to protect individual liberty, enable economic growth, and lift some of the heavy weight of a bloated federal government off of the backs of American families.
Both chambers of Congress should seize 2018 to begin the critical and overdue process of reducing spending, rightsizing the federal bureaucracy, and realigning federal programs with those functions granted to Congress by the Constitution.
Republicans control the House and Senate –it’s on them to follow the law and pursue a joint budget resolution to trigger reconciliation this year. Heritage’s Blueprint and the RSC’s Framework pave the way.