House GOP mulls retroactive spending cuts

With House Republican leaders looking to slash about $60 billion from the budget this year, they are considering retroactively cutting money out of the temporary spending measure that is funding the government through March 4.

The idea of retroactively cutting money that has been approved but not yet spent is one of several options under consideration, according to a GOP aide. By reaching backward to find savings, Republicans would be able to spread out their cuts over several more months, a much easier course than cramming all of them into the second half of this fiscal year.

But the move could also partly invalidate a rationale for not slashing the full $100 billion that Republicans had earlier promised to strip from discretionary, non-defense spending in their first year. In recent weeks, Republican lawmakers said that because current appropriations already cover the first half of the year, they had no choice but to prorate the cuts and thus arrive at a lower total figure for the fiscal year. But if lawmakers can claw back spending, that reasoning would at least partly disintegrate, perhaps putting pressure on Republicans to raise the total level of cuts to compensate.

Other options include passing a separate package of rescissions or including at least one full appropriations bill -- possibly the Defense spending measure -- along with a new catch-all continuing resolution that would fund all of the remaining government agencies.

Discussions on how to proceed and where to cut are continuing, according to aides, and no decisions have been made. Republicans are discussing the options at their retreat this week in Baltimore.

Including cuts in a new continuing resolution appears to have an advantage over passing a slew of separate rescission bills, which some Republicans favor for symbolic reasons but which would stand little chance of passing the Democratically controlled Senate. Senate leaders would be unlikely take up a package of GOP rescissions unless the threat of a government shutdown forced their hand.

Tying a package of rescissions to a new spending bill that finances the government through the end of this fiscal year could make it easier for Republicans to vote for an increase in the debt ceiling without provoking a rebellion by conservative lawmakers backed by the tea party movement.

"They need to lay the seeds before the debt-limit vote," said one lobbyist who has been following the discussions closely.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner warned last week that the nation will hit its debt limit as soon as the end of March. A vote to raise the ceiling is expected to test the Republican leadership's ability to balance the GOP base's demand for deep spending reductions with the responsibilities of governing.

Other issues being ironed out by the Republican Conference include the final target for cuts and efforts to avoid furloughing government workers, a drastic step that the party's leadership is eager to avoid. Given the depth of the cuts, the maneuver would show that leaders are ready "to make some really tough policy decisions," a GOP aide said.

The aide's comments come after House and Senate Republicans last month forced Democrats to abandon a bill that would have funded the government through the end of this fiscal year and instead pass a short-term measure that would make it possible for GOP lawmakers to push through deep spending cuts immediately.

Democrats had sought to pass an omnibus measure -- made up of all 12 annual appropriations bills -- but Republicans killed the proposal after pulling back their initial support. The move required Democrats to support the temporary spending measure to stave off a government shutdown.

Clifford Marks contributed to this report.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.