WASHINGTON – House Republicans on Thursday unveiled $74 billion in cuts for the remainder of the fiscal year to President Barack Obama’s proposed 2011 budget – squaring off with rank-and-file conservatives who insist on $100 billion in reductions promised on the campaign trail, and Senate Democrats who reject such deep hits.
Republicans have said they cannot achieve the greater reduction outlined in their “Pledge to America” last fall because spending has been under way since the fiscal year began in October.
Instead, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., the House Budget Committee chairman, vowed that for the remainder of the fiscal year, his proposal would return domestic outlays to 2008 levels, “pre-stimulus, pre-bailout” – before the federal government took extraordinary steps to shore up the economy during the financial crisis and recession.
“Washington’s spending spree is over,” Ryan said.
Congress faces a March 4 deadline to approve a fiscal plan, as the temporary one expires. Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., warned that the GOP is “playing with fire” by threatening to shut down the federal government if cuts are not enacted.
Republicans are linking proposed spending reductions to the Obama administration’s request to raise the debt ceiling limit, a vote conservative lawmakers oppose. Defaulting on debt payments would upend the financial markets, experts have said.
“Too many Republicans seem to want to force a government shutdown,” Schumer said.
Republicans have struggled to keep their campaign pledge to cut spending, and Ryan’s proposal exposes a new difficulty.
The cuts Ryan proposed to defense and non-security discretionary accounts are taken from Obama’s proposed 2011 budget, which was never enacted.
That means the chairman’s proposal would result in a smaller reduction, about $35 billion, from the actual current level of spending in Washington.
Such a reduction is unlikely to appease House conservatives who have promised to uphold the campaign pledge to cut $100 billion for the remaining seven months of the fiscal year.
“Many House members want to see at least $100 billion,” said a spokesman for Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee.
The GOP plan would cut 12 percent from what Obama had proposed for non-security accounts, including those for education, transportation and other government services – which amounts to a 9 percent reduction from current funding levels.
Democratic leaders dismissed the House Republican proposal as “unworkable” even as senators within their ranks have proposed spending cuts of their own. With nearly two dozen Democratic senators up for re-election in 2012, some are heeding the popular demand to reduce government.