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McConnell’s Priorities: Balance Budget, Then Increase Deficits In Separate Bill

Two top priorities for the Senate this week are finalizing a balanced budget, and voting to add hundreds of billions of dollars to the deficit, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced on the floor Tuesday.

“This week looks to be a busy one in the Senate,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of important legislation to consider.”

McConnell celebrated the ongoing work to pass a balanced budget resolution that reconciles the House and Senate budgets, which is in the final stages, then talked about another top priority — passing a “doc-fix” bill that will undoubtedly increase the deficit by hundreds of billions of dollars in the near future.

“For years, the budget process was ignored almost entirely in this chamber,” he said. “And the idea of a balanced budget passing was basically unthinkable. But now the Senate is under new management. Things are changing.”

“But the budget is far from the only item on the Senate’s near-term agenda,” he added. “The Senate will soon consider bipartisan legislation that’s designed to ensure seniors on Medicare don’t lose access to their doctors.”

The “doc-fix” he referred to is indeed a rare example of meaningful compromise, and will temporarily solve a problem in the way Medicare payments are made to doctors. But the Congressional Budget Office estimates it will add $141 billion to the federal deficits over the next decade, and by 2035 it will add half a trillion dollars to the federal debt, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

It passed the House overwhelmingly, after leadership asked for a quick vote and sent a memo claiming the bill’s reforms “more than offset” costs. But in addition to the CBO and CRFB scores that refute that claim, the bill explicitly exempts itself from a rule that increased spending be offset by spending cuts somewhere else — a rule known as PAYGO. (RELATED: House Votes To Add Hundreds Of Billions To Debt)

McConnell did not mention the cost of the bill on the floor, choosing instead to refer vaguely to “disagreements” about the bill and to acknowledge it’s not “perfect.”

A spokesperson for McConnell declined to comment on the cost, only pointing back to his floor statement and advising The Daily Caller News Foundation to watch the Senate floor.

Republican Sen. Mike Lee is expected to offer an amendment Tuesday, which McConnell will allow for a vote, that would strike the PAYGO exemption from the bill.

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