Back From The Brink

It looks like this might not be a Shutdown Showdown week, as a two-week GOP stop-gap budget unveiled last Friday may stave off legislative brinksmanship on the budget in Congress.

At least for now.

The Republican plan had no poison pills in it, no cuts that were unacceptable to Democrats, as the GOP actually lifted some ideas from Democrats in the Senate, making it more politically palatable.

The plan cuts $4 billion – basically $2 billion per week – which is what Speaker John Boehner had asked for.  

The initial reaction from Democrats was positive, though they still took some jabs at the larger $61 billion package of cuts approved 10 days ago in the House.

“Republicans must abandon the extreme and arbitrary cuts they called for in their spending bill that passed the House last week, and move closer to Democrats’ position of cutting spending in a smart, targeted way,” said House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland.

The House is expected to vote on this plan on Tuesday, and barring some kind of mutiny, the Senate should give its approval later this week.

That certainly does not end this battle, but will give both sides two more weeks for more maneuvering over how much to cut.

In other words, Congress seems ready to delay the game of Government Shutdown Chicken for two weeks.  Solving that larger battle over cuts may prove to be more difficult.

So what is in this initial $4 billion in cuts in exchange for two weeks of government funding?

Here’s the list as provided by the House Appropriations Committee.  As you can see, some of the cuts are from President Obama’s budget for next year – choices that certainly give the GOP a bit of cover in any budget debate.

This CR terminates funding for eight programs.  

• Election Assistance Grants = -$75 million. This termination was requested in the President’s budget request. The states have yet to spend large amounts of funding provided by this program, and both the House and Senate proposed eliminating the program last year.

• Broadband Direct Loan Subsidy (U.S. Department of Agriculture) = -$29 million. No funds were requested for this program in the President’s budget request. This program is duplicative of several other federal programs, and the Agriculture Inspector General has uncovered abuses and inconsistencies in the program as well as a lack of focus on the rural communities it is intended to serve.

• Smithsonian Institution Legacy Fund = -$30 million. No funds were requested for this program in the President’s budget request. The Legacy Fund was intended as a one-time only appropriation for revitalization of the Smithsonian’s Arts and Industries Building. Sufficient private contributions were raised and the Legacy Fund monies were released in December, 2010.

• Striving Readers program (U.S. Department of Education) = -$250 million. This termination was requested in the President’s budget request. This program has a large amount of unused funds, and is essentially duplicative of the Title 1 program that provides $14 billion annually in reading assistance to at-risk students.

• LEAP program (U.S Department of Education) = -$64 million. This termination was requested in the President’s budget request. This program has accomplished its original objective of “stimulating” all states to establish need-based student grant programs, and federal aid is no longer required.

• Even Start (U.S. Department of Education) = -$66 million. This termination was requested in the President’s budget request. Three national evaluations have found that participants in this program make no greater literacy gains than non-participants. The Office of Management and Budget has identified this program as “ineffective.”

• Smaller Learning Communities (U.S. Department of Education) = -$88 million. This termination was requested in the President’s budget request. Both governmental and non-governmental research has shown no evidence that creating smaller learning communities within high schools makes a difference in academic achievement.

• Highways – Additional General Fund spending (Federal Highways Administration) = -$650 million. No funds were requested for this use in the President’s budget request. This one-time, non-recurring funding addition was provided in fiscal year 2010 and distributed to all States through the existing, authorized highway formula. Removing these funds will have no impact on the authorized, mandatory side of the highway program and its limitation of obligations.

TOTAL Terminations Savings = $1.24 billion

Earmark Terminations:

The CR eliminates funding that was made available in fiscal year 2010 that would have gone to earmarked programs and projects. These earmark cuts include:
Energy and Water

-$56 million – Army Corps of Engineers, Investigations
-$341million – Army Corps of Engineers, Construction
-$80 million – Army Corps of Engineers, Mississippi River
-$39 million – Army Corps of Engineers, Operations and Maintenance
-$38 million – Bureau of Reclamation, Water and Related Resources
-$292 million – Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE)
-$13 million – Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability
-$3 million – Nuclear Energy Research and Development activities
-$37 million – Fossil Energy Research
-$77 million – Office of Science – science research
-$4 million – Defense Environmental Cleanup
-$3 million – Other Defense Activities
-$13 million – National Nuclear Security Administration – Office of the Administrator
-$0.3 million – Nuclear Nonproliferation – equipment upgrades

Homeland Security

-$1 million – DHS Undersecretary for Management – logistics training
-$1 million – Customs and Border Patrol Salaries and Expenses – solar powered batteries program
-$43 million – Customs and Border Patrol Construction – facility construction projects
-$1 million – Transportation Security Administration – National “Safe Skies” Alliance
-$4 million – Coast Guard Operations and Expenses – Operations System Center
-$17 million – Coast Guard Acquisition, Construction, and Improvements – shore construction projects
-$4 million – Coast Guard – alteration of bridges
-$20 million – National Programs and Protection Directorate – cyber-security and infrastructure projects
-$5 million – Office of Health Affairs – bio-preparedness
-$103 million – FEMA State and Local Programs – university and emergency operations center grants
-$25 million – FEMA Pre-disaster Mitigation Grants
-$41 million – Science and Technology – research projects

Labor, HHS, Education

-$49 million – Training and Employment Services
-$1 million – Mine Safety and Health Administration
-$40 million – Labor Department, Salaries and Expenses
-$397 million – Health Resources and Services
-$21 million – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
-$15 million – Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
-$3 million – CMS, program management
-$21 million – Children and Families Services program
-$1 million – Child Care Development Block Grant
-$6 million – Administration on Aging
-$2 million – HHS Office of the Secretary, departmental management
-$5 million – School Improvement Programs
-$229 million – Department of Education – Innovation and Improvement
-$32 million – Safe Schools and Citizenship Education
-$22 million – Special Education
-$5 million Rehabilitation Services and Disability Research
-$129 million – Higher Education
-$16 million – Institute of Museum and Library Services

Legislative Branch

-$0.2 million – Library of Congress Salaries and Expenses – digitalization program

Transportation, Housing and Urban Development

-$22 million – HUD Neighborhood Initiatives
-$173 million – HUD Economic Development Initiative
-$293 million – Surface Transportation priorities
-$25 million – Rail Line Relocation

TOTAL Earmark Savings = $2.7 billion

TOTAL CR Spending Cuts = $4.01 billion