Last weekend, House Republicans passed a spending bill that would cut $61 billion dollars in domestic discretionary spending through the end of the fiscal year, which ends on September 30.
If you do the math, that works out to $61 billion in cuts over seven months—exactly $2 billion per week.
Yesterday, House Republicans proposed a "compromise" spending measure to avoid a federal shutdown. And what would that measure do?
A first installment of $4 billion in savings would be part of the deal now and Republicans have said they will insist on $2 billion more in cuts for each additional week the talks continue past the new deadline. The novel approach is one devised by Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), trying to keep pace with his large freshman class while avoiding the same sort of shutdown that so hurt Republicans in the 1990’s when they confronted then President Bill Clinton.
In other words, the GOP compromise would require the exact same level of cuts that their spending bill requires. Nonetheless, for some reason, Senate Democrats are hailing this as a victory:
Senate Democrats indicated they would be willing to go along with the proposal despite their insistence earlier this week that any temporary measure should be free of spending reductions. They had portrayed such a maneuver as a back-door way for House Republicans to begin enacting $61 billion in cuts that have met objections in the Senate.
“We are encouraged to hear that Republicans are abandoning their demands for extreme measures like cuts to border security, cancer research and food safety inspectors,” said Jon Summers, a spokesman for Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader.
"They feared a government shutdown, and so they are adopting some of our suggestions on what to cut," said Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, the No. 3 Democrat in the Senate.
Schumer is basing his statement on the fact that the GOP stop-gap proposal includes many of the cuts proposed by Democrats, including elements of President Obama's FY2012 proposal. It would make sense if this is what Republicans were proposing for a long-term deal, but this is for the next two weeks.
Presumably when the two weeks are up, Schumer thinks Democrats will be in a stronger position to accuse Republicans of shutting down the government, because they will be able to say they already accepted some Republican cuts. But that seems a bit optimistic, to say the least. More likely, this deal will put Republicans in a stronger position to demand deep concessions from Democrats, because Democrats already will have given up some of their bargaining chips. Time will tell.