Clinton Challenged to Cut Now
Clinton Challenged to Cut Now
House Republican leaders plan to challenge President Clinton to come up with $5 billion in rescissions needed to balance the budget during fiscal 1998, House Appropriations Chairman Bob Livingston, R-La., said late Tuesday.
"The money is there, but we have to determine the political support to get the cuts," Livingston said, following a meeting of the House GOP leadership. "That has yet to be determined."
An aide to House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., said the exact form of the challenge remains unclear, but that Republican leaders might send Clinton a letter during the next few days.
The CBO has said it would take $5 billion in outlays to balance the federal budget during the current fiscal year. However, House Appropriations Committee aides have pointed out that finding $5 billion in outlay cuts would require finding between $10 and $20 billion in budget authority cuts. "It's an element that has been missed here," a committee aide said.
Clinton, in his State of the Union address Tuesday night, reiterated that he will submit a balanced budget in FY99. Clinton said the deficit for FY98, "is projected to be $10 billion and heading lower," and added, "if we hold fast to fiscal discipline we may balance the budget this year, four years ahead of schedule."
Another panel aide said finding cuts of that magnitude becomes more difficult as FY98 progresses. "Money is going out the door," the aide said, adding that rescissions bills can take several months to pass. And with House leaders planning to adjourn early to campaign, appropriators will be under intense pressure to move their bills early this year.
The decision to ask the president to help identify the cuts came after GOP leaders and aides gave conflicting impressions of the amount of support they had for balancing the budget in FY98. House Majority Whip DeLay told reporters that GOP leaders had endorsed his plan, but aides to Gingrich cautioned that more work was necessary before Republicans would make the effort.
It remained unclear late Tuesday what course Republicans would take if Clinton declines to help identify the cuts. But if he refuses, "that is another matter," Livingston said.
Livingston also pointed out that in addition to whatever cuts must be made to balance the budget, appropriators also will have to find cuts to help pay for a supplemental spending package, which could include funds for Bosnia, the International Monetary Fund, the United Nations, and disaster relief.
A House Appropriations Committee aide said that while the balanced budget deal allowed for discretionary spending caps to be increased to help pay for IMF funding, GOP leaders have not decided whether to require offsets for the funds if they are approved.
Meanwhile, one influential appropriator said he would prefer to wait until the summer to see if rescissions will be needed to balance the budget this year.
"We ought to see how the economy progresses," said House Labor-HHS Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman John Edward Porter, R-Ill.
He added that, if the economy continues to grow at a fast pace, no cuts may be needed to balance the budget this year.
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