The four Republican congressmen from Arkansas split evenly last week on a budget deal that will fund the government until 2015 and at least prevent another government shutdown.
The bipartisan deal is yet another example of Washington placing short-term politics ahead of getting serious about dealing with our growing national debt.
"I am no fan of this agreement, but I reluctantly supported it because it is better than a government shutdown," wrote Rep. Tim Griffin, who voted for the deal along with Rep. Steve Womack.
"As a conservative, I would have preferred and proudly supported a clean vote on the sequester level spending as laid out in the 2011 Budget Control Act; however, there was not support for that proposal, and the vote was never an option. The Ryan-Murray agreement was the only one we had the votes to pass," Griffin said.
But the other two Arkansas congressmen disagreed.
Rep. Tom Cotton criticized the deal for busting spending caps that took effect just months ago by spending billions now in exchange for supposed long-term spending cuts.
"Arkansans are tired of the Washington ‘long-term,’ which never seems to arrive. While the budget rightly asks federal employees to contribute more to their generous pensions and restores some needed funding for our military, these modest gains come at the expense of hard-won fiscal discipline because of the unreasonable demands of President Obama and Senate Democrats," said Cotton, the likely challenger to one of these Senate Democrats — Sen. Mark Pryor — in next year’s election.
Rep. Rick Crawford also opposed the bill, saying he appreciated the work put in trying to craft a budget that would attempt to "change the spending ways of Washington," but that absent some form of permanent spending control he doubted a non-binding resolution would deter future Congresses from circumventing statutory spending caps.
"Until Congress makes the choice to adopt some form of permanent spending controls, I’m afraid that we will continue to add to our $17 trillion in debt without any fear of consequence," he said.
The deal known as the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 will set discretionary spending at $1.012 trillion for the upcoming fiscal year. The amount is close to the halfway point between proposals from the Senate and the House. It scales back $63 billion in automatic cuts coming through sequester, primarily in the areas of national defense and spending for some research programs.
The political motivation for the deal is pretty clear. The government shutdown in October that was blamed on Republicans is avoided and budget discussions are punted until at least after the next election. This allows the GOP to return to the issue they feel they can win on — Obamacare and its disastrous rollout.
But as my colleague Steve Brawner pointed out in his column for the Arkansas News Bureau, the deal put off the hard choices required to tackle the $17 trillion national debt. This cannot be done without tackling entitlement reforms in the Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security programs.
However, no one seems willing to tackle these tough issues. Both sides will once again claim a political victory in hopes that their party can pick up enough seats in the next election to really get these done after that.
I am not holding my breath.
Jason Tolbert is an accountant and conservative political blogger. His blog — The Tolbert Report — is linked at ArkansasNews.com. His e-mail is jason@TolbertReport.com.