On Friday, Senate Democrats released their spending proposal for the rest of the current fiscal year, offering only $6.5 billion in cuts from the current unsustainable spending levels. Combined with the $4 billion in cuts President Obama signed into law last week, that means Democrats are apparently offering only $10.5 billion in total cuts. The New York Times on Friday deemed it “a figure far short of the Republican goal of cutting agency budgets by $61 billion.” Politico noted, “[E]ven with the added cuts the administration and congressional Democrats are still about $51 billion short of the reductions approved by the House for the remainder of the fiscal year.” And CBS News’ Chip Reid wrote: “[T]he real numbers are Democrats: $10.5 billion; Republicans: $61.5 billion. So Democrats are meeting them one-sixth of the way.”
Yesterday, Fox News’ Chris Wallace asked Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin about this gap: “Then you’re saying $10.5 billion in domestic, non-defense discretionary spending, that’s it?” Durbin replied, “I think we’ve pushed this to the limit.” The Washington Post summarized, “Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) suggested on a ‘Fox News Sunday’ appearance that Democrats were unwilling to go any further than what they have offered. He said the Democratic proposal on discretionary spending cuts has been pushed ‘to the limit.’”
Is Durbin really suggesting that Democrats simply cannot find more than $10.5 billion to cut in a year the country is forecast to face a more than $1.5 trillion deficit? To be clear, the Congressional Budget Office projects that the federal government will spend $1,500,000,000,000 more than it takes in and Senate Democrats are apparently suggesting that the “limit” of what they’re interested in cutting is $10,500,000,000.
According to The Washington Post, Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) told CBS’ Bob Schieffer that House Republicans’ $61 billion in cuts is “an ideological, extremist, reckless statement.”
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell didn’t find that argument very persuasive. Appearing on CBS’ Face the Nation, he said, “[W]hat’s reckless, Bob, is the $1.6 trillion deficit we’re running this year. What’s reckless is the $3 trillion we’ve added to our national debt. Our national debt is now the size of our economy. We begin to look a lot like Greece. Look — and this doesn’t even deal with our long-term unfunded liabilities in Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid. Add up to over $50 trillion of promises we’ve made to future generations that we cannot meet. Look, this is the time to get serious. The administration with regard to this year’s negotiation that we’re talking about, that Senator Kerry called reckless, has only come about one-sixth of the way to where House Republicans are and where I . . . and hopefully all Senate Republicans are. Look, this is a good place to start. But it’s just a pebble in the ocean to what we need to do.”
As we approach the next deadline to keep the government funded, will Senate Democrats and the White House finally listen to the message of ordinary Americans and be willing to set aside their status quo spending plans and get serious about reducing the size of the government?
### Senate News Briefing