POLITICO: House Republican budget strategy collapsing

A scathing analysis in POLITICO this morning details many of the flaws in House Republicans’ harmful budget strategy, from the lack of progress on appropriations to the extreme cuts to domestic programs.  With time running short, there seems to be little hope that Republicans will finish the budget process:

“Like an army that’s outrun its supply line, the Republican budget strategy in Congress shows almost daily signs of coming apart. The central premise, as sold by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, was that Washington could wipe out deficits in 10 years and protect defense spending, all while embracing the lower appropriations caps dictated by sequestration. Four months later, it’s proving to be a bridge too far.”

Only three of the 12 annual spending bills have even been debated — by far the worst record since the GOP took over the House. Against their better judgment, Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee have been required to cut important investments in science, community development and foreign aid. Senate Republicans are peeling off in protest — setting up a crucial procedural vote at noon Tuesday on the transportation and housing budget. Time is running short.”

After the August recess just nine legislative days remain on the House calendar before the next shutdown crisis Oct. 1. Already there are discussions of retreating into a stopgap continuing resolution calibrated to the post-sequester appropriations level of $988 billion.”                                                  

But these appropriations bills aren’t even close to a final compromise that can be signed into law.  Set to the extreme Ryan budget levels, House Republicans have bled dry crucial programs that have enjoyed a long history of bipartisan support. Here’s a look at some of the extreme cuts proposed:

“In June 2012, the House panel recommended $3.34 billion for Community Development Block Grants, a bipartisan program created in 1974 with the help of Republican President Gerald Ford. Yet now funding would be cut to $1.6 billion, less than Ford himself got from Congress nearly 40 years ago.”

“In April 2012, the House panel approved $200 million for the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy known as ARPA-E…. This year’s committee bill, by contrast, cut ARPA-E to just $50 million for 2014 — 80 percent less than current funding even after sequestration.”

All pretense seemed to drop away last Thursday when the House rolled out its State Department and foreign aid budget. Title V of the bill, covering multilateral assistance had been reduced to three paragraphs with entire accounts left bare. The total appropriation was $1.15 billion — about half of what the same panel had recommended in May 2012.”

Monday brought still more cuts — this time from land and wildlife programs important to Western Republicans. Total spending for the natural resources bill would fall to $24.3 billion, $4 billion less than sequestration and almost $8 billion below 2010.

What makes the Ryan budget doubly difficult is it lowers total spending while also tilting the remaining funds to the Pentagon at the expense of nondefense programs. Total appropriations fall to $967 billion even as defense spending is restored to $552 billion — about $33 billion above post-sequester levels. To make room, nondefense spending must drop then to approximately $414.4 billion. That’s a 12 percent cut on top of the reductions made in sequestration and far deeper than what was anticipated in the 2011 BCA. But without some compromise, the BCA will reassert itself this winter with the opposite result.”                                      

If there were any questions remaining over whether the extreme Ryan budget is a bad idea, this ought to settle it. Sequestration is already having a detrimental effect across the nation, but House Republicans’ attempts to make even further reductions is only going to make things worse.  With time running out, Republicans should work with Democrats on a responsible, bipartisan compromise that invests in the economy and turns off the sequester.