GOP-Controlled Congress Adds More Debt Than Divided Congress


House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has often said he doesn’t like divided government because it leads to gridlock. But if a new Congressional Budget Office report is any indication, it may have one redeeming feature: It stops expensive initiatives from both sides of the partisan aisle from being enacted.

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The nonpartisan CBO on March 31 released its biennial tally of the costs of tax and mandatory spending legislation enacted in the previous Congress, the 114th. The damage: $663 billion in higher 10-year deficits from bills that made it into law in 2015, the first year Republicans had control of both the Senate and the House since 2006.

In 2016, tax and mandatory spending laws enacted cut the deficit by a minimal—in terms of the federal budget, at least—amount of $7 billion, the CBO said.

The CBO said most of the deficit increase in the 2016 laws resulted from the tax extenders deal enacted in late 2015 as part of an appropriations deal. Revenue cuts added about $419 billion of the $663 billion in projected higher deficits over 10 years, the CBO said, while new mandatory spending added another $244 billion.

In contrast, the CBO’s previous look back for the 113th Congress, which included 2013 and 2014, showed much smaller swings from tax and mandatory spending laws. In that report, the CBO said laws enacted in 2013 were projected to cut the deficit by $76 billion over 10 years, while laws enacted in 2014 would add about $24 billion to the deficit over 10 years.

While both the 114th Congress and 113th Congress had to deal with a Democratic White House to get bills signed into law, the 113th saw a Democratic-controlled Senate and a Republican-controlled House of Representatives. In the 114th Congress, both chambers were controlled by Republicans.