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CBO: Spending Bill Cuts $352 Million, Not $38 Billion as Advertised

April 14, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

The House is scheduled to vote on the 2011 continuing resolution today, but a new report out from the Congressional Budget Office may cause some problems for the Republicans. The leadership has been saying that the bill represents $38 billion in spending cuts below 2010 levels, less than what many Republicans would prefer, but still a significant amount given that the Democrats control the Senate and the White House, and want to keep spending at the same level as last year. But, according to the AP, the continuing resolution’s cuts are just a small fraction of what the leadership has claimed:

A new budget estimate released Wednesday shows that the spending bill negotiated between President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner would produce less than 1 percent of the $38 billion in promised savings by the end of this budget year.

The Congressional Budget Office estimate shows that compared with current spending rates the spending bill due for a House vote Thursday would cut federal outlays from non-war accounts by just $352 million through Sept. 30. About $8 billion in immediate cuts to domestic programs and foreign aid are offset by nearly equal increases in defense spending.

When war funding is factored in the legislation would actually increase total federal outlays by $3.3 billion relative to current levels.

As Dave Dayen notes, the AP’s analysis leaves aside some crucial information that leads to the cuts sounding less substantial than they actually are — specifically the $12 billion in cuts over three stopgaps and the fact that outlays will always be less than total spending authority. But even so, the CBO report underscores the fact that this bill isn’t close to what conservatives hoped it would be. The government is facing another shutdown deadline at midnight tonight, so there’s no time to revise. If the vote fails due to these new CBO numbers, the leadership will have to push another short-term stopgap or let the government shutdown until a new deal can be worked out.

CBO Director Doug Elmendorf is pictured above. 

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