Federal budget battle: Can Congress avoid a government shutdown?
GOP proposals to cut the federal budget range from $100 billion to $500 billion to a symbolic $1.5 trillion. With Democrats wary of stifling the economic recovery, the divide just may be too wide.
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Gallery State of the Union 2011
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A lesson for the public
On the House side, Rep. Steve King (R) of Iowa says that the House should take up a proposal for $1.5 trillion in spending cuts, just so that the public has an accurate sense of what’s involved in the range of cuts needed to balance the federal budget.
“Are we committed to a balanced budget?” he asks. “If so, we must tell Americans what we have to do to get there.”
In the official Republican response to the president’s address, Rep. Paul Ryan (R) of Wisconsin noted that Mr. Obama had signed into law domestic spending increases of 25 percent, or 84 percent if you count temporary stimulus spending.
“All of this new government spending was sold as investment. Yet after two years, the unemployment rate remains above 9 percent, and government has added over $3 trillion to our debt,” he said, in a televised response. “Then the president and his party made matters even worse by creating a new open-ended health-care entitlement.”
As chair of the House Budget Committee, Ryan has been tasked with setting a cap for FY 2011 spending. Since the last Congress never completed a budget or spending bills, the government has been funded by a continuing resolution, which expires on March 4. House leaders say that the Appropriations Committee will take up a bill to fund the balance of the fiscal year, which will come to the floor the week of Feb. 14.
But deep cuts for FY 2011 that pass in the House face trouble in the Democrat-controlled Senate.
Major cuts in programs
Economist James Horney, director of federal fiscal policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, says that the House GOP plan to cut $100 billion out of non-security discretionary spending would mean a 21 percent cut on domestic programs.
“It would remove substantial purchasing power from a weak economy, thereby costing hundreds of thousands of jobs and raising risks of a double-dip recession,” he writes in a Jan. 21 report. If the RSC’s 10-year, $1.5 trillion plan prevails, that would cut non-defense spending by 42 percent and “decimate key services,” he adds.
Commenting on competing views on this issue, the Concord Coalition’s Mr. Bixby concludes: “They’re so far apart that it’s going to take a crackup until finally the public clearly has had enough of it and wiser heads prevail.
“I would not be surprised to see some sort of on again-off again shutdown this spring,” he says, “until the point where the public and the business community and the markets all say: Knock it off!”