UPDATE: The House passed PAYGO today 233-187. No Republicans voted for the bill.
The on-again, off-again controversy of adding a pay-as-you-go rule to budgeting in Washington seems to finally be subsiding, as the House is expected Thursday to vote the rule back into law.
U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., said Wednesday he expects the House to pass PAYGO legislation, which would require any mandatory federal spending increases to be accounted for, both in the immediate and long term.
Cooper, a member of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition of Democrats and a co-sponsor of the PAYGO bill that passed the House in June, said he’s been disappointed in Congress for waiting as long as it has to pass the bill.
“Most every family budget is pay as you go, and the federal government should also live by that standard,” Cooper told The City Paper. “Congress has utterly failed in its responsibility to curb the federal debt and deficit.”
The pay-as-you-go rule initially passed the House last summer, and it appeared to be on track to pass the Senate with bipartisan support. However, as President Obama made public his endorsement of PAYGO, key Republicans backed off and the bill foundered. A slightly modified version passed the Senate last week, a day after the president made reference to his desire for the bill’s passage in his first State of the Union address.
Tennessee Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, both Republicans, voted against the legislation.
Although it existed before, President Clinton pushed PAYGO as part of a budget-balancing plan in the late 1990s. It passed in 1998; supporters attribute some of Clinton’s fiscal success to the policy. But that law expired in 2002.
The newly minted Democratic Congress passed a procedural rule that was principally the same in 2006, riding a wave of voter unease with government spending under the Bush administration. That rule, however, could be overturned by a majority vote in the House and 60 ayes in the Senate.
The biggest difference between the Clinton-era law and the one the House is expected to pass Thursday is that the current legislation would require spending initiatives to be deficit neutral over five and 10 years, not annually, according to information from the office of House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer.
“I think it will mean more fiscal discipline,” Cooper said of PAYGO, adding he believes it was “tragic” to allow the original law to lapse in 2002.