In a not-so-subtle challenge to President Obama, House Republicans are looking to vote on a resolution on Tuesday—the same day as the State of the Union address—that instructs House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., to come up with a plan to reduce non-security discretionary spending for the remaining six months of fiscal year 2011 to fiscal 2008 levels, or less.
Ryan is already permitted to do so under House rules adopted earlier this month, but House Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier, R-Calif., said on Wednesday that GOP leaders want to get House members on the record about where they stand when it comes to cutting the deficit.
“What we want to make there is a clear understanding of what we are seeking to do,” Dreier said. “Our goal is to reduce spending to the 2008 levels, and this resolution allows every member to specifically vote for or against that.”
The Rules Committee approved the resolution on Wednesday. Democrats contend Republicans are engaging in political theater to counter Obama’s State of the Union.
During last year’s campaign season, Republicans pledged to reduce spending to levels before the 2009 economic stimulus package was passed, which they claim jacked up discretionary spending for programs favored by Democrats. However, their pledged reductions would not affect funding under the Defense, Military Construction-VA, and Homeland Security budgets.
Dreier contends that the resolution is part of the effort to make good on that promise.
Dreier also blamed Democrats for not passing a budget resolution last year. “That is what has gotten us to the position we are in today,” Dreier said.
He added that the Budget Committee is also waiting for the Congressional Budget Office to provide the panel a report on present spending so they can see how much they have to cut to get back to the fiscal 2008 non-security discretionary level. The CBO is expected to release its analysis Wednesday.
But the work of cutting will be done by the House Appropriations Committee, which is scouring the budget looking for savings.
“As I have said before, it is my intention to craft the largest series of spending cuts in the history of Congress,” House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky., said in a statement. “My committee is working diligently on this right now, and will continue this effort throughout the Appropriations process this year.”
But Democrats charged that the resolution is not needed and holding the vote is just an attempt by Republicans to steal Obama’s thunder.
“We have been told that the whole reason we are rushing … is that this is going to be voted on next Tuesday and next Tuesday just happens to be the State of the Union address,” said House Budget Committee ranking member Chris Van Hollen, D-Md. “So the president will come before the House and deliver the State of the Union address and this now provides the opportunity for a press release to create the false illusion that, in fact, we are talking action on the budget.”
House Rules Committee ranking member Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., charged that the resolution lacked details, particularly what would be cut under the GOP spending plan.
“We can’t pretend to cut spending with a press release,” Slaughter said.
This article appears in the January 20, 2011, edition of NJ Daily.