WASHINGTON – The White House is finalizing a multibillion-dollar roster of proposed spending cuts but is leaving this year’s $1.3 trillion catchall spending bill alone.
The White House said it is sending the so-called rescissions package to lawmakers Tuesday, with Capitol Hill GOP aides saying about $7 billion would come from unused funding from the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
Pressure from party conservatives to increase cuts from about $11 billion to more than $15 billion contributed to a delay from Monday’s original release date.
The administration is trying to use its authority to prod Congress to “rescind” spending approved years ago, but even if the package is approved it would only have a tiny impact on the government’s budget deficit, which is on track to total more than $800 billion this year. Some of the cuts wouldn’t affect the deficit at all since budget scorekeepers don’t think the rescinded money would have been spent anyway.
Still, the White House and tea party lawmakers upset by the budget-busting “omnibus” bill have rallied around the plan, aiming to show that Republicans are taking on out-of-control spending.
It’s also a priority for House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who’s taking the lead on Capitol Hill and likens it to “giving the bloated federal budget a much-needed spring cleaning.” But while the package may pass the House it faces a more difficult path – and potential procedural roadblocks – in the Senate.
McCarthy wants to succeed soon-to-retire House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and some of his allies view the project as a way to improve his standing with fractious GOP conservatives who blocked his path to the speakership in 2015.
The proposal has already had a tortured path even before its unveiling. More pragmatic Republicans, including the senior ranks of the powerful House and Senate Appropriations committees, rebelled against the measure. They argued that it would be breaking a bipartisan budget pact just weeks after it was negotiated. In response, White House budget director Mick Mulvaney cleansed the measure of cuts to the huge omnibus measure.
Last month, Mulvaney told lawmakers the plan could have totaled $25 billion or so. Now he says he’s planning to submit several different packages of spending cuts – and it’s likely they’ll get more conservative with each new proposal.
Either way, the idea faces a challenging path in Congress – particularly the Senate, where a 51-49 GOP majority leaves little room for error even though budget rules permit rescissions measures to advance free of the threat of Democratic filibusters. But the cuts to the popular children’s health insurance program probably could still be filibustered because they are so-called mandatory programs.
The congressional aides required anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly.