Ryan Votes for Earmark Reforms in House Rules Package, Opposes Steps that Pave Way for Tax Hikes
The House of Representatives today completed votes on a new House rules package to govern House debate and consideration of legislation throughout the 110th Congress. The rules package was broken up into sections that were voted on separately. All passed the House, so the new rules now take effect. While First District Congressman Paul Ryan supported significant portions of the new rules package, he voted against rules changes that have the practical effect of encouraging tax hikes to pay for higher spending.
As the Ranking Member of the House Budget Committee, Ryan spoke on the House floor during today's debate. He commended the new majority in the House for putting forward a serious set of earmark reforms that build on similar reforms that were passed last fall by the House.
The earmark reforms contained in the new rules package require that bills or joint resolutions considered in the House include either a list of earmarks in the text or committee report and the name of the Member requesting each earmark or a statement that no such earmarks are included. The rules also require every Member requesting an earmark to provide a written explanation of the request and certifying that the Member or spouse has no financial interest in the earmark.
On the other hand, Ryan expressed disappointment with another part of the rules package that creates a bias towards raising taxes and does not adequately address the real challenge to balancing the federal budget: unsustainable government spending. This portion of the new rules is referred to as PAYGO, which stands for "pay-as-you-go". While Ryan supports a version of PAYGO that requires spending increases to be offset by spending reductions, he criticized the type of PAYGO that passed today because it's a weak version that won't restrain spending but will make it easier to raise taxes to chase higher spending.
"If we are serious about balancing our budget, we have to recognize that Washington does not have a revenue problem - it has a spending problem. Tax receipts have grown by double-digit percentages over the past two years, thanks to the strong economic and job growth that was sparked by tax relief. Unfortunately, the new PAYGO provisions in the House rules simply pave the way for higher taxes, and they lack teeth when it comes to reducing spending or the deficit." Ryan said. "With this rules package, we are making good progress on earmark reforms, but moving in the wrong direction toward tax-and-spend budgeting when it comes to PAYGO."
In summary, the new PAYGO rules:
Allow the House to increase spending as much as it likes - as long as they "pay for" it by cutting other spending or - more likely - increasing taxes.
Don't reduce spending. It applies only to new spending and does nothing to reduce current spending, which is already growing at unsustainable rates.
Don't reduce deficits. This version of PAYGO only works to maintain the deficit at its current level.
Set a double standard favoring higher spending by assuming that spending is forever while tax relief is temporary. This PAYGO protects all current spending - even the programs scheduled to expire. On the other hand, it assumes that expiring tax relief will lapse, and thus requires offsets to simply maintain current tax rates (since the 2001 and 2003 tax relief is scheduled to automatically expire in the next few years).
Contain a huge spending loophole. The version of PAYGO that passed today includes a significant loophole that enables the House to "pay for" spending in the near term by promising spending cuts down the line - cuts that are highly unlikely to go into effect. This "buy now, pay later" policy poses serious problems down the road.
Are a weak, watered down version of PAYGO. Previous PAYGO versions were enforced by across-the-board spending cuts, which created the incentive to control spending. However, this version is enforced only by a point of order - which the majority can easily waive for popular spending increases. It also fails to include caps on annual appropriations, which have accompanied PAYGO requirements in the past.
In addition, the new rules make it easy to raise taxes and difficult to reduce them. The new rules allow the use of expedited procedures (budget reconciliation) to raise taxes. At the same time, they prohibit using reconciliation for adopting tax relief.
Although he didn't support the PAYGO rules contained in this package, Congressman Ryan voted in favor of other portions of the rules package, including the section on House ethics reforms. Among other things, the ethics rules expand the current ban on reimbursement for privately funded travel from lobbyists to also include a ban on travel reimbursement by private entities where lobbyists have had any involvement in planning, organizing, requesting or arranging the trip (with an exception for institutions of higher learning). The rules require Members and staff, before accepting travel otherwise permitted under House rules, to provide specific written certification from the source of the trip to the House Ethics Committee that the trip complies with specific rules. The ethics rules also bar Members and employees of the House from knowingly accepting gifts from lobbyists and private entities that employ lobbyists regardless of value (while maintaining current exemptions, such as if the giver is a relative.)