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How the House GOP promise to cut $100b became $32b

From NBC's Luke Russert
On Capitol Hill today, House Budget Committee staffers briefed reporters about Chairman Paul Ryan's plans for the nation's budget for the rest of fiscal year 2011.

The current continuing resolution -- the bill that funds the government -- runs out on March 4, 2011. That leaves seven more months for fiscal year 2011, which ends on Sept. 30, 2011.

In their "Pledge to America" unveiled during the 2010 midterms, Republicans promised that in their first year, they would cut $100 billion from the nation's budget.

With common-sense exceptions for seniors, veterans, and our troops, we will roll back government spending to prestimulus, pre-bailout levels, saving us at least $100 billion in the first year alone and putting us on a path to begin paying down the debt, balancing the budget, and ending the spending spree in Washington that threatens our children’s future.

Due to the fact that the current continuing resolution, that was written by Democrats, runs out on March 4, they plan on pro-rating that $100 billion dollar number to $58 billion in non-security savings from the money President Obama asked for in the 2011 fiscal year budget. (In other words, the $58 billion in savings applies equals 7/12 of the fiscal year that they say the GOP is in charge of, and it doesn't include money for security/military needs.)

However, when taking a closer look at the budget numbers, the actual savings found in the GOP plan equals $32 billion.

The math
The Obama administration did not get its desired budget in the current continuing resolution that is funding the government through fiscal year 2011.

If the current continuing resolution is extended, the amount of money used to fund the government for fiscal year 2011 is $1.087 trillion. The House GOP proposed budget is for $1.055 trillion dollars. $1.087 minus $1.055 equals $32 billion.

Ryan has responded that the House GOP will find $74 billion in discretionary savings "relative to President Obama's budget request." But the problem with that is that Obama's request is not the actual budget.

The politics
Many conservative House Republicans have asked that the $100 billion dollars in savings promised in the "Pledge to America" happen in fiscal year 2011. The GOP Leadership essentially conceded today that that is unlikely to occur, given the fact that the GOP had no control over the budget for the first five months of fiscal year 2011.

GOP leadership aides are quick to point out that that budget will go to the floor under an open rule, in which members may have a chance to add amendments that would cut more.

The fact that the savings only amount to $32 billion -- and not $100 billion -- is going to surely upset many conservative Tea Party members.

The Republican Study Committee, the ideological conservative faction of the House GOP conference, has been adamant that there be $100 billion dollars in cuts for fiscal year 2011.

What happens now?
The fight over the continuing resolution will happen in the House next week. It is unlikely that the GOP will be able to enact the $32 billion dollars in savings by March 4, as any budget bill must pass the Democratic-controlled Senate.

There will most likely be more temporary continuing resolutions to keep the government funded and operating. Then the House GOP will have to strike some sort of compromise with the Democratic Senate in order to pass through the savings they desire.

Where do the $32 billion in cuts come from?
The $32 billion in cuts will come from non-defense spending. House Republicans are quick to tell you that in the two years of the Obama administration, non-security spending has gone up 24%. When pressed for where exactly the cuts would be made, Republican Budget Committee staffers punted and said those decisions would be made by the House Appropriations Committee, the committee that ultimately allocates where the nation's treasure is spent.

When asked where might the Appropriations Committee look to find savings, House Republican Budget Committee staffers were quick to say that under the Obama administration, the Environmental Protection Agency has seen its budget triple, and Republicans would "examine" that agency.

The future
The week of February 14, it is expected that Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) will unveil the House GOP budget for the entire fiscal year 2012. This will happen directly after President Obama unveils his budget for fiscal year 2012. Ryan's budget is expected to contain even more billions in cuts, specifically cuts that will appease the GOP base.

****UPDATE**** GOP aides tell NBC News that comparing Republicans’ campaign pledge of $100 billion dollars to the actual cuts of $32 billion dollars is like comparing “apples to oranges.”

Aides say that on Sept. 30, 2010, House Republicans pledged that, if they gained the majority, they would cut $100 billion from President Obama’s requested fiscal year 2011 budget. Today, the GOP announced $74 billion in savings from Obama’s requested 2011 fiscal year budget. The aides say that House Republicans are not breaking their pledge because they’re pro-rating the savings as being relative to the seven out of 12 fiscal months that they are in control of the House.

Thus, in the aides’ opinion, the House GOP pledged to cut $100 billion dollars and are honoring that in their proposal, given how long they have been in power. The aides continue that the House GOP never promised to cut $100 billion from the current federal spending levels for fiscal year 2011, which is being funded by a continuing resolution first enacted by Democrats. They claim their $32 billion in cuts will “spend out” the current fiscal year 2011 at fiscal year 2008 levels. Part of the “Pledge to America” was to return government non-security spending to fiscal year 2008 levels.

GOP leadership aides also tell NBC News that the Republican Study Committee has continuously called for $100 billion in cuts from President Obama’s request fiscal year 2011 budget, not the actual federal spending levels that the government is currently operating under at the present time.

According to House Budget Committee aides, if the GOP were to revert back to 2008 fiscal year levels under the current Federal spending level structure, $59 billion in cuts would be needed. That $59 billion would take into account all 12 months of fiscal year 2011. The House GOP Budget Committee currently does not see that as feasible and proposed today to simply spend out the rest of fiscal year 2011 at fiscal year 2008 levels.

GOP aides expect some pushback from more conservative members of the GOP Conference in regards to the $32 billion in savings, as they fall $17 billion short of what ideologically conservative faction of the conference, the Republican Study Committee is calling for -- $59 billion.

*** UPDATE 2 *** House Budget Committee Ranking Member Chris Van Hollen's response: “Federal spending is currently $46 billion less than what President Obama requested for this year. Now House Republicans want to cut non-security spending by 9% more, with all of the cuts targeted over the final seven months of the fiscal year. The President’s bipartisan Fiscal Commission cautioned against such immediate spending cuts, and economists like Mark Zandi have made the point that deep and immediate spending cuts proposed by Republicans could raise the unemployment rate back into double digits."