Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Under Republican Reign: Their Sweep Is Cleaning House

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Under Republican Reign: Their Sweep Is Cleaning House

Article excerpt


EVERY MORNING LATELY WHEN I READ The Washington "Insider" reports I get the same little tune in my head, "Anything you can cut I can cut better; I can cut anything better than you." Although instead of Annie and her gun, I am picturing Edward and his scissorhands.

The rules package adopted by the new House majority January 5 for the 112th Congress largely adopted the 111th House's rules, but with a 33-page list of alterations that make some important changes. Mainly, the new rules contain a "Cut-As-You-Go" provision that prohibits House consideration of a bill that has the net effect of increasing mandatory spending within the one-year, five-year, and 10-year budget windows. If a bill increases mandatory spending by an amount, the bill must cut other spending elsewhere by at least the same amount. CUTGO replaces the Democrat's PAYGO rule--which required offsets for the costs of both increases in mandatory spending and reductions in tax revenues. CUTGO bars the use of tax increases to offset the costs of new mandatory spending and eliminates special protection for transportation spending.

Another rule gives unprecedented authority to Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) to unilaterally establish spending caps for the remainder of fiscal 2011, which ends September 30. Democrats strongly opposed the rule, arguing that it will give the Budget Chairman too much power. Under the directive (H Res 38) passed January 25 by the House, Chairman Ryan must set the cap at a level that reduces non-security spending (i.e., all discretionary spending outside of defense, homeland security, and veterans programs) to 2008 levels or less for the last seven months of the fiscal year. Conservative Republicans are pushing for even deeper cuts, and they would like to meet their campaign pledge to cut $100 billion in domestic spending.

The government is currently operating under a Continuing Resolution (CR) which provides funding at 2010 levels through March 4. Congress must pass another CR to fund the government for the remainder of the year or face a government shutdown. The overall $1.055 trillion discretionary cap set by Chairman Ryan is $74 billion below President Obama's discretionary spending request for the year, and $40 billion below current spending levels. Knowing many Republicans desire much deeper cuts to spending, Chairman Ryan deemed the current cuts a down payment toward further reductions to come later, including as part of the fiscal 2012 budget and appropriations process.

The House Appropriations Committee reiterated that intention when it adopted the separate caps (called 302 (b) allocations) for each of the 12 individual spending bills. In order to roll back spending to FY08 levels, the House Appropriations Committee proposed 70 cuts for an initial $58 billion in reductions to the President's FY 2011 budget requests to be part of the upcoming CR, also calling it a down payment on the pledge to cut $100 billion in non-defense, non-security spending. The largest cuts were slated for Transportation-HUD, Commerce-Justice-State, Agriculture, and Financial Services, but programs applicable to parks and recreation were also targeted to take big hits. Those programs include the Community Development Fund (CDF), the majority of which funds Community Development Block Grants; the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG), which provides federal funding for job placement and training; and the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).

The CR was delayed in order to find more reductions in order to meet the pledge of $100 billion, and even after that, it comes to the House floor under an open rule, giving GOP conservatives a chance to vote for further cuts. Another component of the GOP House rules package allows each section to include a deficit reduction "lockbox" account into which the savings from amendments to cut funding can be placed to effectively reduce that bill section's spending cap and prevent the funds from being used for other purposes. …

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