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home : news : national news free May 26, 2018

5/8/2018 11:12:00 AM
Trump proposes cutting $15B in unused spending

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump sent lawmakers today a plan to wipe more than $15 billion in unused spending off the government’s books.

The plan wouldn’t have much practical impact on targeted programs such as the popular Children’s Health Insurance Program. But the move would take away leftover money that could be used to pay for other budget priorities.

House Republican leaders hope to pass the measure this month, but it faces more resistance in the narrowly divided Senate despite being tailored to leave this year’s $1.3 trillion catchall spending bill alone. Many GOP conservatives blasted that “omnibus” measure as too bloated, while more pragmatic Republicans said they would oppose any efforts to cut from it.

Trimming back previously allocated funding used to be common in Washington. But the so-called “rescissions” process hasn’t been used since the Clinton administration.

“Washington has a spending problem,” said White House budget director Mick Mulvaney. “By utilizing a tool deployed by every President from Ford to Clinton, today’s historic $15.4 billion rescissions package is an obvious step toward reducing unnecessary spending and protecting the American taxpayer.”

If approved, the tactic would only have a tiny impact on the government’s budget deficit, which is on track to total more than $800 billion this year. Some of the cuts wouldn’t affect the deficit at all since budget scorekeepers don’t give credit for rescinded money that they don’t think would have ever been spent.

For instance, more than $4 billion in cuts to a loan program designed to boost fuel-efficient, advanced-technology vehicles wouldn’t result in fewer loans since the loans are no longer being made. And $107 million worth of watershed restoration money from the 2013 Superstorm Sandy aid bill is going unused because local governments aren’t stepping up with matching funds. Another $252 million is left over from the 2015 fight against Ebola, which has been declared over.

Still, the cuts, if enacted by Congress, would take spending authority off the table so it couldn’t be tapped by lawmakers for other uses in the future. The catchall spending bill, for instance, contained $7 billion in cuts to CHIP that were used elsewhere to boost other programs.

“This is money that shouldn’t be spent, can’t be spent in certain circumstances, doesn’t need to be spent. What’s your argument for voting against that?” Mulvaney said, noting that top Democrats such as Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has supported such cuts before. “Rescissions used to be the ordinary course of business in Washington, D.C. .... I’m not sure why they’re against it just because Donald Trump is president.”

Just weeks ago, Democrats supported almost $7 billion in cuts to the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, eager to grab easy budget savings to finance new spending at the Department of Health and Human Services. But some Democrats howled over the Trump proposal anyway.

“Let’s be honest about what this is: President Trump and Republicans in Congress are looking to tear apart the bipartisan Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), hurting middle-class families and low-income children,” Schumer said.

Pressure from party conservatives to increase cuts in a tentative $11 billion proposal contributed to a delay from Monday’s original release date.

The White House and tea party lawmakers upset by the budget-busting “omnibus” bill have rallied around the plan, aiming to show that Republicans are taking on out-of-control spending. The administration says it will propose cuts to the omnibus measure later in the year.

The spending cuts are also a priority for House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who likens them to “giving the bloated federal budget a much-needed spring cleaning.” But while the package may pass the House it faces a more difficult path — and potential procedural roadblocks — in the Senate.

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