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Thursday's briefing: Hey, big spenders, what happened to the deficit?

WASHINGTON – Congress will likely agree Thursday to spend an extra $300 billion or so over two years to keep everybody, Republicans and Democrats alike, happy.

Well, not everybody. They're a quaint bunch these days, sort of like guys who wear bow ties, but there are still a few deficit hawks out there who worry mightily about what Congress appears ready to do.

If lawmakers pass the budget bill, they will have, within the span of two months, laid a $1.8 trillion bill at the feet of America's children.

Some $1.5 trillion of that comes in the form of tax cuts, with that dollop of $300 billion in new defense and domestic spending ladled on top in this new budget deal.

For Republicans who screamed about big deficits under President Barack Obama, a Democrat, it's a flip-flop of Olympic proportions. And it's left the deficit hawks screaming.

"It’s wrong to mortgage America’s future in order to simply keep the government open," said Michael A. Peterson, president and CEO of the fiscally conservative Peter G. Peterson Foundation.

"Today’s irresponsible policymakers may or may not remain in office beyond the midterm elections this year," said Anthony J. Ogorek, who, as a financial planner in Williamsville, is charged with helping clients make responsible financial decisions. "All of us will have to live with the consequences of their reckless policies for decades to come. Should we experience another deep recession as we did in 2008, government will be hard pressed to pull another rabbit out of its hat due to dangerously high debt levels."

Lawmakers, predictably, see things differently.

“The budget deal doesn’t have everything Democrats want; it doesn’t have everything the Republicans want, but it has what the American people need," said Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, a New York Democrat. "It shows that bipartisanship still lives in Washington and that both parties can work together to address the issues affecting our nation."

Meantime, Rep. Chris Collins – a Clarence Republican who has decried deficits in the past – said: "Today’s deal is a big win for Republicans with a sensible compromise on our budget caps, raising our debt ceiling, and putting a down payment on the President’s infrastructure plan."

Collins has said he hopes the tax plan will spur higher economic growth, which would help tame the deficit. But that's a $1.5 trillion bet.

And while they didn't back the GOP tax overhaul, Democrats who support the budget deal will be laying more money on that bet.


Because it's easy – far easier than offending voters by cutting spending, far easier than risking another government shutdown.

"Rather than make hard choices on spending, the parties have chosen to scratch each other’s backs," said David M. Primo, a political scientist at the University of Rochester and a senior affiliated scholar at the Mercatus Center, a free-market think tank at George Mason University. "Republicans get more defense spending, Democrats get more social spending, and future generations get handed the bill – and perhaps a debt crisis to boot."

Happening today

All eyes will be on Congress, as both houses aim to pass the budget deal ... House Democrats continue to try to fit their annual retreat in and around their legislative work, with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi set to deliver remarks just a day after her day-long talkathon on behalf of the DACA Dreamers ... After a National Prayer Breakfast appearance this morning, President Trump has a series of meetings, including one with venerable former secretary of state Henry Kissinger ... Continuing what looks like the exploratory phase of a presidential campaign, former Vice President Joe Biden will be interviewed on Andrea Mitchell Reports on MSNBC at noon.

Good reads

The Washington Post profiles Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, showing how he maintains influence in the Trump administration while keeping his head down ... Vox explains the incomprehensible: what a war with North Korea would look like. ... The New York Times notes that not everyone is in step with President Trump's plans for a big military parade in the capital ... But in Politico, a former George W. Bush speechwriter says such a parade would be a stroke of political genius ... And the Wall Street Journal shows that YouTube, just like Facebook, tends to steer people toward "the Internet's dark corners."

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