In a hagiographic profile of Obama budget director Peter Orszag, Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker writes of the “pressure” he might get from congressional deficit hawks:
The respective heads of the House and Senate Budget Committees, John Spratt, Jr., of South Carolina, and Kent Conrad, of North Dakota, have spent years trying to control the deficit…
Kent Conrad, the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, has made eradicating the federal budget deficit his life’s work.
Now, you’d think that if the ranking Democrats on the congressional budget committees had made deficit reduction their life’s work, the budget wouldn’t have, you know, skyrocketed over the past decade and more. So let’s go to the tape.
The National Taxpayers Union has given Spratt an F for his votes on federal spending every year for more than a decade. (He had a couple of D’s earlier in his career.) In the past two years, he voted with the taxpayers 5 and 6 percent of the time. He voted for spending bills more often than the average member of the House, and more often than the average Democrat. Some deficit hawk!
Conrad has an almost identical record — almost all F’s, with ratings of 5 and 6 in the past two years.
By another measurement, in the 109th Congress (the most recent for which these calculations are available), Spratt voted for $184 billion in additional spending and voted to cut — drum roll, please — $4.8 billion in spending. Conrad voted to cut $8 billion, but he also voted to hike spending by $362 billion. In what world are these guys “trying to control the deficit”?
NTU does have one analysis that makes Conrad and Spratt look a little better: the bills they have sponsored or cosponsored. Spratt introduced 32 bills that would increase spending and 2 that would cut spending. While that may not sound very thrifty, it compares favorably to, say, Hilda Solis’s 110 bills to increase spending or Barney Frank’s 112. And the total new spending in Spratt’s bills — $7 billion — is positively Randian. Conrad’s record is similar — 36 bills to increase spending by $8 billion, which compares very favorably to, for instance, Hillary Clinton and Thad Cochran.
Apparently Conrad and Spratt don’t introduce too many spending bills, but they vote for all the ones that get to the floor. Not exactly a strategy that holds the budget down. The search for a fiscally conservative Democrat continues.