House-Senate gulf on spending for the rest of 2011 grows

The chasm between what the House and Senate find acceptable on federal spending widened on Thursday when House Republicans appeared to coalesce around seeking $100 billion in cuts compared to President Obama's fiscal 2011 budget request.

The GOP-controlled House and Democratic-controlled Senate were already far apart when House appropriators last week proposed a plan to cut $73.6 billion compared to Obama's fiscal 2011 request, including a $58 billion drop from Obama's nonsecurity spending request and a $15.6 billion reduction in security spending.

The plan was cast as a down payment on a campaign pledge to reduce nonsecurity discretionary spending to fiscal 2008 levels, which is about $100 billion less than Obama's fiscal 2011 budget.

But several conservative House Republicans revolted at a GOP caucus meeting on Wednesday morning, sending Republican appropriators back to the drawing board, according to a party aide.

On Wednesday night, they added $26 billion more in nonsecurity discretionary funds for a total of $84 billion.

As word leaked out on Thursday, the reaction from Senate Democrats was quick and to the point: unacceptable. And with the current continuing resolution set to expire on March 4, there is little time to reconcile.

"Our goal and our charge aren't to cut billions of dollars just to say we did," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Thursday on the Senate floor. "We need to think about what we're cutting, and make sure those cuts aren't counterproductive. We need to pay attention to the quality of these cuts, not just the quantity."

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who is chairman of the Senate Democratic Policy and Communications Center, said: "They are blindly swinging a meat axe to the budget when they should be using a scalpel. Some of these House Republicans won't be satisfied with anything less than a shutdown of the government."

Senate Appropriations Chairman Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, said he couldn't comment on the GOP's $100 billion cut plan because the details haven't been released. But he reiterated his prediction that there would be another short-term CR because there is not enough time before March 4 for the House to pass its package and to work out a compromise with the Senate.

Inouye's comment came after he met with House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky., off the House floor during votes. He declined to discuss his meeting with Rogers other than to say, half jokingly, that "It was a social call."

House GOP leaders appear to be treading a fine line as they seek to please their new members, fresh from campaign victories fueled by promises to cut Washington spending, and the need to pass spending legislation that funds the remainder of the fiscal year by March 4. But the proposal, even more than before, could threaten to alienate moderate Republicans. With no Democrats expected to support it, the GOP moderate bloc is likely needed to pass the CR.

"I don't think the new number helps attract people," said Rep. Steven LaTourette of Ohio, a moderate Republican and a member of the Appropriations Committee, as he was entering a Thursday evening meeting of the House GOP caucus. He added that he is keeping an open mind and hoped to get more details in the meeting.

"We are here to talk about where they think they are today," LaTourette said. "Clearly, there are some things as a person from the Mid-Atlantic states who cares about the things that have been specifically targeted I am interested to hear what they have to say."

After the meeting, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said members "are coming around and uniting around" the $100 billion cut proposal, which he said would be the largest since World War II.

Cantor added that the $100 billion includes additional defense cuts. "We have said all along that everything is on the table.… No one can defend every dollar that is spent at the Pentagon and, yes, that is on the table as well."

One item that could be among the new cuts is the controversial alternate engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, despite strong support from House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, several sources said.

House Republican Appropriators' original proposal for the program included $450 million for the engine, which the Pentagon has said it does not want and cannot afford.

General Electric and Rolls Royce would build the second engine for the stealthy fighter in Ohio, while Connecticut-based Pratt & Whitney is on tap for the primary engine.

Both firms have mounted intense lobbying pushes in recent days and have particularly been targeting the offices of freshman GOP members. If the engine makes it through the budget-cutting drill unscathed, there will be an amendment on the floor striking the funding.

Supporters of the alternate engine tout the longtime cost savings generated by competition for the $100 billion engine market. But opponents say buying a second engine is not worth the $2.9 billion investment required over the next six years to continue development and begin initial production.

House Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier, R-Calif., said it will be an interesting vote next week as members are expected to be allowed to offer virtually any and all amendments. Asked if some members could get cold feet when the details are unveiled, he said, "Could be, we will have to wait and see."

Megan Scully contributed to this report.

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

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
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.

    Download
  • 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.

    Download
  • 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.

    Download
  • 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.

    Download
  • 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.

    Download
  • 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.

    Download
  • 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

    Download
  • 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.

    Download
  • 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.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

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

    Download

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