Brown Garners House Support for Investment Budget
All day yesterday, and late into the night, the House of Representatives debated the Federal budget. Ten days ago, Congressional Republican leaders cut a deal with the President on a five-year budget plan to balance the budget. Ultimately, this agreement passed the House by a wide margin. However, several substitute plans were debated and defeated last night, including the Investment Budget offered by George E. Brown (D-CA), ranking member of the House Science Committee.
Upon defeat of his measure (91-339), Mr. Brown commented:
"While we lost the vote, we did help redefine the terms of the debate about the Federal budget. Almost every speaker who opposed the leadership's budget agreement or expressed concern about it mentioned the inadequate level of investment in that plan. I was particularly gratified that Mr. Gephardt, the Minority Leader, mentioned the lack of investment as one of his three key objections to the budget agreement; he subsequently voted for my substitute.
"I would have loved a victory, but I am satisfied that we are raising the level of awareness about the importance of investing in our educational system, our research enterprise and our capital infrastructure."
Compared to the budget agreement, the Brown Investment Budget would have provided $27 billion more for civilian research, $18 billion more for infrastructure, and $2 billion more for education and training over the five years of the budget plan (FY1998-2002). CBO scored the Brown substitute as coming into balance in 2002 - actually running a small surplus of $1.4 billion. Brown's budget did not include any tax cuts, unlike the $85 billion in cuts included in the leadership's plan.
On the tax cuts, Mr. Brown observed that, "Curiously, the budget agreement increases the Federal deficit for the next three years. By a strange coincidence that increase is approximately $85 billion over my plan. By a further coincidence, $85 billion is the exact amount of the projected tax cuts. In other words, we are increasing the Federal deficit for the next three years, piling on debt for our children, to give America a tax cut today. Then the plan's supporters cling to the gullible idea that the 107th Congress and President Gore will be willing to make drastic cuts in discretionary spending during the last two years of the plan to bring it into balance. That is a touching faith, like a belief in the Tooth Fairy, but it isn't very realistic.
"My sense is that the greatest concern regarding my plan was the cuts it made to defense spending. My plan holds defense spending steady at the 1998 level - some $40 billion less over five years than included in the budget agreement. Too many Members still have contractors or bases that they are trying to protect; I understand why they could not support my plan. However, I will keep appealing to reason - in the post-Cold War era, we do not need to maintain a massive force infrastructure, and having so many of our best and brightest in the services or working on defense contracts is a drag on our economy. In time, I hope to persuade a majority of my colleagues that further prudent cuts can be undertaken.
"Finally," Brown added, "I note that the Chairman of the Budget Committee, Mr. Kasich, indicated that he received just 30 votes on his first budget effort several years ago. I am gratified to find that my supporters helped me triple Mr. Kasich's total with this first Investment Budget."
Among five substitute plans debated and considered, none passed.