CBO: Federal Deficit Rising Again Under GOP Congress

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

The federal budget deficit will rise again this year for the first time in six years, according to a report released Monday by the Congressional Budget Office.

Not only is this year’s deficit up by $100 billion, it marks the first time the deficit has grown, relative to the economy, since the Democrats had complete control of Washington.

This year’s projected deficit is $544 billion, an increase of $105 billion over last year. As a share of the overall economy, the most meaningful measurement, the deficit has also increased, now equaling 2.9 percent of GDP.

The total debt outstanding has also increased dramatically since last year. Total federal debt owed to the public is now equal to 76 percent of the economy. This is up a staggering two percentage points since last year.

This latest report from the CBO goes a long way to explain the insurgent wave now agitating the Republican presidential nomination. Federal spending, with Republicans in complete control of Congress, is now increasing again for the first time since Democrats controlled Congress. Federal debt is also accumulating at a faster pace than when Democrats were in charge.

It isn’t surprising, then, that 60 percent of Republican voters feel “betrayed” by the party’s political leadership. Betrayed is certain a strong sentiment, but its hard to argue against that belief when Congressional Republicans are failing on the one issue that they campaign on most aggressively.

The increase in the deficit, in fact, is not due to some organic spending path that isn’t immune to action by Congress. According to the CBO, the federal deficit would have decreased this year but for the actions by Republicans to pass their omnibus spending bill at the end of last year.

Last year, the Republican in Congress voted to eliminate the “sequester,” automatic, across-the-board spending cuts first enacted in 2011 as part of a deal to increase to nation’s debt limit. This action, combined with the omnibus spending bill, which both boosted spending and enacted retroactive tax cuts without accompanying spending reductions, pushed the deficit $130 billion higher than CBO originally estimated last year.

It is important to remember that in 2011, when the automatic spending cuts were first enacted, Republicans had recently captured the House of Representatives, while Democrats still controlled the Senate. The return to higher deficits, then, has come at a time that Republicans have taken control of the Senate and now completely control the purse strings in Congress.

Republican voters are understandably frustrated that recent Republican budgets have continued to fund all of President Obama’s priorities, including ObamaCare, executive amnesty and stricter regulatory action. Compounding this now, however, is the fact that Republicans are also funding a return to higher deficit spending.

The only political variable that has really changed between earlier budget agreements and this most recent deal that dramatically increases both the deficit and debt is Republican control of the US Senate.

It isn’t unreasonable to wonder whether Republican control of the Senate was a mistake. If Republicans in Congress insist on funding all of Obama’s initiatives, can’t they at least do this in exchange for bringing down the deficit?