Ryan’s radical rule?

RYAN’S RADICAL RULE?…. House Republicans quietly advanced procedural budget rules last week, which would be funny if they weren’t so ridiculous. But there’s a second part of this that shouldn’t go overlooked.

We talked the other day about Republicans’ “Cutgo” rules. The policy allows the GOP to try to keep slashing taxes, without having to pay for them, while requiring spending cuts to pay for new or expanded programs.

As Paul Krugman explained this morning, “Spending increases will have to be offset, but revenue losses from tax cuts won’t. Oh, and revenue increases, even if they come from the elimination of tax loopholes, won’t count either: any spending increase must be offset by spending cuts elsewhere; it can’t be paid for with additional taxes.” The Nobel laureate labeled this “the new voodoo.”

And then there’s the other part of House Republicans’ new budget rules.

A little-noticed detail in the new rules proposed by House GOP leaders would greatly increase the power of Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., the incoming chairman of the House Budget Committee. As National Journal’s Katy O’Donnell reports, the new rules say that, for fiscal 2011, the chairman will set spending limits without needing a vote.

If that sounds insane, that’s because it is. Under the proposed rules, Ryan would be empowered to single-handedly establish spending levels if the House and Senate struggle to agree on a budget resolution. Just as important, Ryan’s levels would be binding on the chamber, without even being subjected to a vote.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explained:

This rule change … means that by voting to adopt the proposed new rules on January 5, a vote on which party discipline will be strictly enforced, the House could effectively be adopting a budget resolution and limits for appropriations bills that it has never even seen, much less debated and had an opportunity to amend. […]

Once Rep. Ryan places in the Congressional Record discretionary funding limits set at the [2008] level, they will become binding on the House, and any attempt to provide funding levels that allow for less severe cuts will be out of order.

In addition to inviting a crisis and almost-unavoidable government shutdown, Pat Garofalo reminds us, “The proposed change also seems to fly in the face of the GOP’s promise to end backroom deals and increase transparency, as with one vote, the GOP House may yoke itself to a budget that has never been made public.”

Worse, the chamber would be forced to honor mandatory spending levels, established by one crackpot lawmaker, which the rest of Congress would never have even voted on.

We’re starting to see some outrage from House Democrats on this, but the fix may be in.