CHN: The House Marches Toward a Showdown on Spending Cuts

The emboldened House Republican majority has taken steps toward making drastic cuts in programs that would undoubtedly impact low-income and vulnerable families and individuals. On January 25, they voted to reduce spending for non-security domestic discretionary programs (annually appropriated programs that do not include military, veterans, and homeland security) back to FY ’08 levels. These programs comprise approximately 12 percent of the federal government’s budget.  H Res 38 passed 256-165 with all Republicans and 17 Democrats in support. The reduction would entail a cut of $100 billion in the FY 2011 baseline, or 21 percent reduction, compared to the funding level in 2010.
The House Republican Study Committee (RSC), composed of 165 of the 242 members of the Republican caucus (72 percent), is proposing even deeper reductions in non-security discretionary spending.  They would slash back to the FY ’06 level for the 10-year period FY 2012-2021. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (see report) if the cuts were made across the board, a decimating 42 percent cut in all programs would result (including K-12 education, food safety and inspection, environmental protection, housing assistance, community services, and many more human needs programs).  The Spending Reduction Act of 2011, H.R. 408, introduced by RSC Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH) specifies $2.5 trillion in spending cuts over 10 years.  See the bill summary.

The attempt to implement deep spending cuts will first occur when the current temporary continuing resolution (CR), which funds FY 2011 discretionary programs, expires on March 4.  Since 5 months of FY 2011 will have already passed House leaders are signaling that they might propose pro-rating the  spending cut for the remaining 7 months instead of packing a full year’s reduction into the months left in the fiscal year (lessening the cut to $55 to 60 billion).  Many of the RSC members and those elected with Tea Party support, however, are demanding that the full $100 billion cut be imposed.

On January 5, the House passed a set of rules including one that gives Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (D-WI) unprecedented authority to determine the overall spending level for FY 2011.  Chairman Ryan and House Republican leaders will decide whether to propose either another short-term CR or one that extends through the end of FY 2011.  If House leaders choose to produce another short-term CR, it could be set to expire around the same time the Administration would need to ask Congress to raise the federal debt limit ceiling. This timing would give those who support severe cuts leverage to extract concessions from the Senate and the Obama Administration which might otherwise be less likely to agree to drastic cuts in spending. When the House returns from a break on February 8, it will begin debate on another CR.

The Coalition on Human Needs launched a new long-term campaign on January 21 to oppose short-sighted appropriations and budget cuts that hurt low-income people and slam the breaks on economic progress for all of us.  The campaign will fight budget rules that make it easy to cut services and difficult to raise revenues, and will weigh in on efforts underway in the Senate to produce long-term deficit reduction legislation. The campaign calls for a responsible and balanced approach to cutting spending and raising revenues, including reductions in wasteful spending in the military and elsewhere and revenue increases, while protecting low-income and vulnerable families and individuals.  The Campaign will focus on informing and educating grassroots advocates regarding the budget process and associated issues, collecting data to show how services help people and communities and the impact of cuts in those services, and engaging grassroots and DC advocates in demanding that members of Congress approach budget cuts and deficit reduction in a way that strengthens America’s values and economy for all.

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