WASHINGTON >> A new budget estimate released Wednesday says that the spending bill negotiated between President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner would produce less than 1 percent of the $38 billion in claimed savings by the end of this budget year.
The Congressional Budget Office estimate shows that the spending bill due for a House vote Thursday would pare just $352 million from the deficit through Sept. 30. About $8 billion in cuts to domestic programs and foreign aid are offset by nearly equal increases in defense spending.
The House began debate on the measure Wednesday with a test vote slated for the early afternoon. The measure appears on track to pass the House and Senate this week before a stopgap spending measure expires Friday at midnight despite opposition from some of the GOP’s most ardent budget cutters.
The budget deficit is projected at $1.6 trillion this year.
The CBO study confirms that the measure trims $38 billion in new spending authority, but says many of the cuts come in slow-spending accounts like water-and-sewer grants that don’t have an immediate deficit impact.
The study also fails to credit savings claimed by cuts to benefit programs like children’s health care and a crime victims fund as producing immediate savings. Such cuts often involve spending authority that is unlikely to be used anyway and, as a result, has a negligible effect on the budget deficit. But such moves can be claimed under budget rules to pay for spending increases elsewhere in the legislation.
Still, the measure halts and begins to reverse large increases for domestic agency operating budgets that have been awarded during Obama’s first two years in office.
"With this bill we not only are arresting that growth but we are receding actual discretionary spending by a record amount, nearly $40 billion in actual cuts in spending that has not ever been accomplished by this body in its history, in the history of the country," said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky. "The cuts in this bill exceed anything ever passed by the House."
Republicans say they wish the measure would cut more but that the cuts negotiated by Boehner are about as good as can be expected giver that Democrats hold the Senate and the White House. In his February budget, Obama pressed a freeze on domestic agency accounts.
"We continue to push this president to places he never said he would go," said House GOP Whip Kevin McCarthy of California. "The president said he would freeze spending. Our Speaker negotiated, outnumbered 3-1. We have cut spending."