In the battle over the federal budget, Democrats have portrayed Republican cuts as “reckless,” while terming their own reductions as milder and smarter. But the Democrats’ own plan also would cut deeply into federal spending, according to a new think tank analysis.
House Republicans last month approved a spending bill which would slash $92 billion below 2010 levels from a wide swath of federal programs, according to the analysis from the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), a left-leaning Washington think tank.
President Obama and other Democrats oppose those cuts, and put forward an alternative which would shave 2011 funding by $40 billion below the inflation-adjusted 2010 level, the analysis finds.
Despite the difference in the size of their proposed reductions in spending, “the proposed cuts from both sides are quite deep when compared to last year’s enacted funding levels, adjusted for inflation — the usual measuring stick for funding proposals,” the analysis says.
The Republican and Democratic proposals are both well below the amount requested by President Obama for fiscal year 2011, but never acted on. Congress never approved a full federal budget for the current 2011 fiscal year, and instead has been relying on a series of short-term continuing resolutions based on 2010 spending levels.
Senators on Wednesday defeated both sets of proposed cuts, which come as lawmakers race to find a solution to the budget impasse before March 18. That’s the day the current temporary funding measure for the government expires. If Democrats and Republicans do not agree on funding by then, much of the federal government would be forced to shut down.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is calling on top congressional Republicans to come to the negotiating table to find a funding level agreeable to both sides before that happens.
Although Republicans claim that they are seeking a return to a level of federal spending similar to that which existed before the 2009 economic stimulus and financial bailouts, those arguments are misleading, says CBPP.
” … House Republicans have repeatedly described their proposal to cut non-security discretionary funding as returning such funding to the ‘pre-bailout, pre-stimulus’ level of 2008,” the think tank says in a separate recent analysis. “This has led many people to believe that the current funding level is bloated — and can easily be cut — because it includes funding for bailouts and stimulus spending that was supposed to be temporary. That is not true.
“The ‘bailout’ funding — presumably for the Troubled Asset Relief Program and other Treasury Department efforts to shore up the nation’s financial system — was mandatory spending (meaning it was not provided through annual appropriation acts) and, therefore, never appeared as part of discretionary funding, much less the current level of discretionary funding,” its analysts say.
“The 2009 Recovery Act did include a significant amount of discretionary funding, but that funding was for fiscal year 2009,” they add. “The current continuing resolution generally provides funding for government agencies at the levels and under the conditions set by appropriation bills for 2010.”
Scott Nance is the publisher of the news site The Washington Current, formerly known as On The Hill. He has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.