The face-off between Republicans and Democrats over federal spending officially kicks off Tuesday when the House votes on a measure to slash the budget to 2008 levels just hours before President Obama delivers his State of the Union address.
The resolution, to reduce spending for the remainder of the fiscal year, would likely result in at least a 20 percent cut in the federal government’s non-defense spending and would put the House on a collision course with the president and the Senate, which is under the control of Democratic lawmakers who will resist reductions they believe jeopardize critical programs or result in layoffs of essential government employees, like FBI agents and corrections officers.
Republicans plan to underscore their budget-cutting agenda after the president’s speech as well. The GOP tapped House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., a fiscal conservative, to deliver the response to the State of the Union address. Ryan wrote a budget blueprint last year calling for drastic budget cuts and the partial privatization of Social Security and is expected to lead the latest Republican effort to slash spending.
Republican strategist David Marin said the GOP moves to vote on the spending cuts and assign Ryan to respond to Obama’s speech were both deliberate and savvy.
“Book-ending the president’s address with this vote and Paul Ryan’s response is a clever way to steal some of the thunder from what otherwise would be a news cycle dominated by the Democrats, on the most important issue facing lawmakers today,” Marin said.
Republicans are facing pressure from Tea Party activists and fiscal conservatives to fulfill a campaign promise to reduce spending this year by $100 billion and the resolution being voted on Tuesday would move them toward that goal. The cuts wouldn’t kick in until March, however, and would last until Sept. 31, the end of the fiscal year.
Tuesday’s resolution also will put pressure on House Democrats who have also pledged to make reducing the nation’s $1.3 trillion deficit a priority.
The resolution would direct Ryan, as the head of the budget committee, to cap 2011 spending at or below 2008 levels, without specifically outlining the cuts needed to get there. At some later date, the House will have to vote on the slimmed-down budget bill Republicans produce to fund the government from March until October and that is when Democrats will put up the biggest fight.
“If the way they word this resolution is to reduce spending to 2008 levels then I’m all for it,” Rep. Pete DeFazio, D-Ore., said. “When they get to specifics, we’ll probably have some disagreements. Between the Pentagon and the space program and the agriculture subsidies, I could find more than enough to reduce spending to the 2008 levels.”0
Democrats attacked Ryan as someone who wants to hurt senior citizens by gambling away Social Security and downsizing Medicare.
“Picking Rep. Paul Ryan to give the State of the Union rebuttal is a clear sign that House Republicans will move full speed ahead with plans that would have a devastating impact on seniors who are already struggling to get by,” said Jesse Ferguson, a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.