Bean counters say deal barely makes a dent

By Andrew Taylor
Associated Press / April 14, 2011

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WASHINGTON — A budget estimate released yesterday says that the spending bill negotiated between President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner would produce less than 1 percent of the $38 billion in claimed savings by the end of this budget year.

The Congressional Budget Office estimate shows that the spending bill due for a House vote today would cut just $352 million from the deficit through Sept. 30. About $8 billion in cuts to domestic programs and foreign aid by then are offset by nearly equal increases in defense spending.

The House began debate on the measure yesterday.

The budget deficit is projected at $1.6 trillion this year. The study confirms that the measure trims $38 billion in new spending authority but says many of the cuts come in slow-spending accounts such as water-and-sewer grants that do not have an immediate deficit impact.

The study does not credit savings claimed by cuts to programs such as children’s health care and a crime victims fund as producing immediate savings. Such cuts often involve spending authority that is unlikely to be used and, as a result, has a negligible effect on the deficit. But such moves can be claimed under budget rules to pay for spending increases elsewhere in the legislation.

Still, the measure halts and begins to reverse large increases for domestic agency operating budgets that have been awarded during Obama’s first two years in office.

“With this bill we not only are arresting that growth but we are receding actual discretionary spending by a record amount, nearly $40 billion in actual cuts in spending that has not ever been accomplished by this body in its history, in the history of the country,’’ said the House Appropriations Committee chairman, Harold Rogers, Republican of Kentucky.

“The cuts in this bill exceed anything ever passed by the House.’’