The House just passed a bill that funds the government through September 30, despite 59 Republican defections. The bill would not have passed without Democratic votes; a majority of Democrats voted against it.
I’d say another day or two and that bill wouldn’t have gotten passed in the House. Speaker John Boehner practically disavowed it in his remarks on the House floor:
“Does it cut enough? No,” Boehner said on the House floor. “Is it perfect? No. I’d be the first one to admit that it’s flawed. Well, welcome to divided government.”
In particular, the CBO announcement that the deal only reduces outlays in the current budget year by $352 million roiled conservatives leading up to the vote. In a follow-up, CBO explained that over time, the reductions in budgetary authority in this bill would only reduce outlays between $20-$25 billion in the 10-year budget window. After seeing this number, I’m more inclined to believe that the deal is not close to what was advertised. I still believe there are opportunity costs that are being missed, and the $20-$25 billion number seems to directly contradict CBO’s earlier assertion that changes to Pell grants would cut $40 billion over ten years. But it’s not as substantial a cut as predicted, certainly not in the immediate term.
In fact, if you look at defense, which was supposedly “cut” in this deal (if you read AP), you’re seeing an increase in their appropriations. That leads to other cuts, which don’t have to be that big to have an impact (look at the foreign aid budget, or the EPA). And the policy riders kept in the bill, on DC abortions and grey wolves and the like, are sharply conservative. But as an overall deficit reducer, the deal isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
This is going to really hurt Boehner’s credibility and his relationship to the Tea Party. He’s shifted wildly from defending cuts that aren’t quite there to disavowing a deal he negotiated. The knives are already out:
As the vote nears, Tea Party heroes within conference are spoiling for a last-minute rumble. Rep. Allen West (R., Fla.) tells reporters that House GOP leaders bungled the deal. “My leadership needs to sit down and have a ‘come to Jesus’ with [each other],” he says. “Character and integrity are important things with me. I like people to be upfront with me. Surprises are for birthdays. When you wake up, and all of sudden you look at the National Journal, and they say that it is really only $352 million in cuts, I don’t like that.”
I don’t see how these same lawmakers will reach a bipartisan agreement on the debt ceiling, given this feeling of betrayal.
By the way, if you think that the President is some mad genius who brags about spending cuts that aren’t spending cuts, take note of Tim Geithner’s assurance that the US made a “fundamental shift” towards fiscal discipline. There’s definitely pain in this budget, just not what Boehner led his party to expect. That’s going to be very tough for him in future fights.
…An important point I neglected: The CBO assessment does NOT include the cuts that will come from making these cuts the new baseline and playing them out over 10 years. It hasn’t answered that question, only how the cuts will manifest themselves over time. Barack Obama’s discretionary spending freeze claimed savings of $400 billion over 10 years because it created a new baseline and reduced future budgets through that. You cannot say that’s true in Obama’s case and not in this budget deal. I don’t think CBO is avoiding the issue and making this budget look better than it is on purpose, but they’re not answering the right questions.