By Jon H. Harsch
© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.
WASHINGTON, Feb. 4 – House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., announced Thursday that “Washington’s spending spree is over.” Laying out a plan to cut the federal budget for the current fiscal year by $74 billion compared with the administration's budget request, Ryan said that “As House Republicans pledged and voted to affirm on the House floor last week, the spending limits will restore sanity to a broken budget process and return spending for domestic government agencies to pre-stimulus, pre-bailout levels.”
Ryan's proposal for an overall 9% cut in non-defense, discretionary spending would include a 14% cut for farm program spending; 16% for Commerce, Justice and science programs; and 17% for transportation and housing programs. Setting the stage for partisan confrontations to come, Ryan said that “The President has asked for an increase in the national debt limit, but we must first work to enact serious spending cuts and reforms. Endless borrowing is not a strategy. Business as usual in Washington is not acceptable.” He called his initial proposed cuts a “down payment” and promised that Republicans will continue “working to restrain the explosive growth of government and to help restart America’s engine of economic growth and job creation.”
The next step comes next week when Ryan plans to file a discretionary spending allocation to set “enforceable limits on discretionary spending bills for the remainder of the fiscal year.” Then it will be up to the the House Appropriations Committee, now chaired by Rep. Harold Rogers, R-Ky., to hammer out specific program cuts to comply with Ryan's overall spending limits.
Responding to Ryan's proposed spending cuts, House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said “it is essential that Washington return to fiscal responsibility and tackle our deep debt.” But he said that while spending cuts are needed, “a responsible approach must recognize there are federal investments that can best help grow our economy and create jobs. He charged that “The Republican plan to cut those job-creating investments is dangerously short-sighted.”
Hoyer said that “Rather than follow this misconceived Republican proposal, I believe that Congress should debate the hard choices that address the real sources of our debt: choices like deficit-reducing tax reform, scrutiny for waste in defense spending, and work to protect the solvency of our entitlement programs.” He added that the recent reports from two independent commissions on fiscal policy argued that immediate cuts would undermine the current economic recovery.
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