House Budget ranking member Chris Van Hollen (left) will offer a Democratic budget proposal even as Minority Leader Steny Hoyer and others argue that it is unnecessary because Congress passed the Budget Control Act in August.
Van Hollen took strong exception to Republican discussions to pass a budget with levels below the 2012 spending cap in the BCA, saying they would be breaking the terms of last year’s deal.
Republicans say the spending “caps” in the BCA are a ceiling and that going below that ceiling is not violating the agreement. But Van Hollen argued that both parties understood the caps to mean spending levels.
“Webster’s dictionary defines a ‘cap’ as an upper limit, as on expenditures — and that’s what it means in the context of the BCA, an ‘upper limit.’ If Washington Democrats are so desperate to spend more money borrowed from China that they can’t understand that, they can look it up on the Internet,” said Michael Steel, a spokesman for Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).
“I think everybody understood that the caps were the intended target levels of spending. In other words, that those were the levels that people presume you get appropriated to. All you have to do is ask the Republican appropriators, they agree,” Van Hollen said. “There’s no misunderstanding there. The Republican appropriators recognize that what we were doing was setting spending levels.”
The Maryland Democrat said that if Republicans pass the budget with lower levels of discretionary spending, it will worsen the relationship between the two parties.
“It’s a violation of the agreement. It makes it very difficult to operate in the House because that agreement was negotiated in good faith, and it’s just an indication that it’s hard to get things done in the Congress these days. It’s hard enough to get things done without people violating agreements. But when they violate agreements, it makes it doubly difficult,” Van Hollen said.