To enable its plans to make deep spending cuts in the current fiscal year, Republicans propose giving the incoming budget chair, Rep. Paul Ryan (R) of Wisconsin, power unilaterally to set tax and spending limits for fiscal year 2011.
The move is potentially an extraordinary one. Any spending above the limits that Congressman Ryan sets would be subject to a point of order on the House floor – a significant procedural hurdle. House GOP leaders have pledged to cut $100 billion out of domestic spending for the current fiscal year, and vesting Ryan with such authority would jump-start that process.
In 1997, House Republicans gave similar authority to then-Budget chair John Kasich (R) of Ohio after the House and Senate failed to agree on a compromise budget resolution. But in that year, the House had already passed its budget resolution, which gave Mr. Kasich a framework.
By contrast, the outgoing Congress last year failed to pass a budget resolution or any of the 12 spending bills for the fiscal year that began on Oct. 1, meaning Ryan is, in effect, starting from scratch.
Any House action under Ryan's direction is not final, however: Spending bills still have to clear the Democrat-controlled Senate and be signed by the president.