Pelosi and Spending Restraint: Carpe Diem

In back to back posts, Kevin Drum may be onto something where “liberal” Nancy Pelosi may actually find a way to pay for those tax cuts. Today’s offering points to a story where Pelosi intends to get to work immediately. Yesterday’s offering noted how the Hastert led Congress dropped the ball in terms of passing various spending bills:

Republicans vacating the Capitol are dumping a big spring cleaning job on Democrats moving in. GOP leaders have opted to leave behind almost a half-trillion-dollar clutter of unfinished spending bills. There’s also no guarantee that Republicans will pass a multibillion-dollar measure to prevent a cut in fees to doctors treating Medicare patients. The bulging workload that a Republican-led Congress was supposed to complete this year but is instead punting to 2007 promises to consume time and energy that Democrats had hoped to devote to their own agenda upon taking control of Congress in January for the first time in a dozen years. The decision to drop so much unfinished work in Democrats’ laps demonstrates both division within Republicans ranks and the difficulty in resolving so many knotty questions in so short a time. GOP leaders promised their House and Senate members the December lame duck session would last no more than two weeks, or until Dec. 16 at the latest. Now, with the agenda shrinking, a session that will be the last for 45 retiring or defeated House members and senators should be wrapped up by Dec. 8. That could work against efforts to forestall a cut in physicians’ Medicare payments. Under a formula dating back to 1997, Medicare payments to doctors for office visits will drop an average 5 percent on Jan. 1 – unless Congress steps in. Keeping them the same for another year would be expensive, about $10.8 billion, and chances are mixed at best for the doctors’ lobby. Driving the decision to quit and go home rather than finish the remaining budget work is a determined effort by a group of conservative Republicans to prevent putting a GOP stamp on spending bills covering 13 Cabinet Departments — and loaded with thousands of homestate projects derided as “pork” by critics. Some Republicans on Capitol Hill would rather complete this year’s budget work and have the GOP’s imprint rather than a Democratic one on how federal agencies will be spending their money through next September. However, conservatives such as Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., fear doing that would leave as the GOP’s legacy a foot-tall bill containing thousands of parochial projects. Last week they seized the upper hand by employing delaying tactics to drag the budget process to a halt in the Senate. “The last thing Republicans need is an end-of-Congress spending spree as our last parting shot as we walk out the door,” said DeMint spokesman Wesley Denton.

In a way, I’m glad Hastert&Co. abdicated responsibility. The sooner this corrupt bunch of hypocrites leave town – the better. I’m just hoping Pelosi decides to pull together the true fiscal conservatives like Jeff Flake and the Blue Dog Democrats and deletes a lot of the pork this past Congress has so gleefully increased. While President Bush loves to talk about tax cuts as if he’s giving us our money back – we have not seen a shred of fiscal leadership from the White House in six years and should not expect any for the next two years. So Nancy – it’s up to you.