A November 20 Washington Post article on the current struggle over budget legislation in Congress cited "the challenge of Republicans in seeking to satisfy conservative calls for a return to fiscal discipline," but failed to inform readers of a $60 billion tax cut package recently passed by Republicans in the Senate, the projected cost of which would more than offset recent spending cuts passed by House Republicans as part of the purported effort to "return to fiscal discipline."
The Post article referenced the recent defeat in the House of Representatives of a Republican-backed bill that would have cut funding for health and education programs, and also noted House Republicans' recent passage of a five-year spending bill that would cut spending on entitlement programs by $50 billion. The Post also quoted House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL), who claimed the cuts in spending will "start to turn down the escalating costs ... for our children and our grandchildren," adding that "[o]ne of the things that we cannot leave to that next generation is a huge deficit that they can't afford."
In an article that led with the assertion that the spending cuts are part of a "broader effort" by Republican House and Senate leaders to "impose fiscal discipline," the Post did not mention the $60 billion tax cut package approved by the Senate November 18. The tax cut includes a $30 billion provision to spare many taxpayers from paying the alternative minimum tax next year. A second tax cut bill is currently pending in the House, and will have to be reconciled with the Senate bill if it passes in its current form. The House bill would extend President Bush's tax cut on dividends and capital gains, maintaining the current tax rate of 15 percent on these forms of income. Under current law, the tax cut is scheduled to expire at the end of 2008, when the tax rate will return to its previous level of 20 percent.
Democrats have argued that these tax cuts will offset any savings gained from the spending cuts approved by the House. These claims are backed by data from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). CBO estimated that the savings from the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 (H.R. 4241), as passed by the House November 18, would be approximately $50 billion over the 2006-2010 period. The office also estimated that the cost of the Tax Relief Extension Reconciliation Act of 2005 (H.R. 4297), as reported by the House Committee on Ways and Means November 15, would be approximately $56 billion over the same period.
Unlike the Post article, other newspaper reports on recent budget battles in the House noted the Democrats' objections. A November 18 Los Angeles Times article on the $50 billion spending cut approved by the House noted Rep. David Obey's (D-WI) objections to Republicans' efforts to pass spending cuts and tax cuts, such as the $60 billion tax bill just approved by the Senate: "For Republicans," [Obey] said, "the name of the game is to cut wherever they can to give billions of dollars to the rich in tax cuts."
A similar November 18 article in The Baltimore Sun also reported the passage of the Senate tax cut bill, noting objections by Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-MD):
If the issue was "in fact [about] cutting deficits, one could argue persuasively that we need to balance the budget," said Hoyer, the No. 2 Democrat in the House. "But it's not. It's about cutting spending here, and then cutting taxes."