What has House GOP done to cut budgets so far?

The new set of House rules requires that new spending be offset by cuts, not new revenues. And members are supposed to roll back spending by their own offices, too.

Susan Walsh/AP
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio delivers the oath of office to Republican members of the House of Representatives during the first session of the 112th Congress, on Capitol Hill in Washington on Jan. 5.

New House Speaker John Boehner and his fellow Republicans have promised that cutting government spending will be job one in the new Congress. Well, time’s a-wasting! They’ve been in charge of the chamber for a whole day. What have they done to reduce Uncle Sam’s outflow?

Well, the first thing they’ve accomplished is to pass a set of new House rules intended to make it a lot harder for appropriations to rise. Stopping the thing that got you into trouble in the first place is the first step on the road to recovery, right?

The old House rules had a general “pay as you go” clause, which required that the cost of all new bills be covered by either spending cuts or revenue increases. The new GOP-produced rules ditch the revenue part and require bills to be paid for via budget cuts only.

According to a House Rules Committee explanatory document, the new rules prohibit “consideration of a bill, joint resolution, conference report, or amendment that has the net effect of increasing mandatory spending within a five-year or ten-year budget window.”

It will also be out of order for the House to even consider a budget resolution that “would have the effect of increasing net direct spending,” according to the Rules panel.

Second, the House is set Thursday to roll back its own internal spending. Members are scheduled to vote on a resolution that would reduce the amount authorized for salaries and expenses of member, leadership, and committee offices in 2011 and 2012.

This resolution is already up on the Rules Committee website, and it is pretty straightforward. In general, it reduces those aforesaid spending categories to 95 percent of 2010 levels.

You may ask, what about new members? They weren’t in Congress in 2010, so they don’t have a spending level to reduce. That’s an excellent question, but the GOP has thought of that, too. There’s a line in the resolution that says to the new folks, in essence, whatever you thought you were going to get this year and next, just cut it by 5 percent. That’s your new bottom line.

There is one interesting bit at the very bottom of this resolution, though. It’s Section Four, and it deals specifically with the salaries and expenses allotted for one particular panel: the House Committee on Appropriations.

The appropriations people are in line for bigger cuts than everybody else. The resolution squeezes them to 91 percent of 2010 levels, for a 9 percent cut, instead of the 5 percent reduction other panels are facing.

Guess they figure there will be less appropriations work to do, so they should get paid less, huh?

Meanwhile, the GOP target for cuts in the overall budget for fiscal year 2011 appears to be in flux. In their Pledge to America, Republicans promised to roll back government spending to pre-stimulus, pre-bailout levels, saving at least $100 billion in the first year alone. But the 2011 fiscal year is already three months gone. GOP leaders figure it is getting harder by the day to hit that $100 billion pledge. So they are fudging a bit, saying now that their real target is to reduce spending to 2008 levels.

“We’re also saying, we’re going to have every expenditure on the table ready for examination, ready for cuts, even over in the Defense Department,” said House majority leader Eric Cantor of Virginia in a CNBC interview on Thursday.

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