House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) suggested during a conversation on the House floor Thursday with his Democratic counterpoint that Republicans could cut spending to levels not seen since at least 2007 during a conversation on the House floor Thursday with his Democratic counterpoint.
In a discussion that should preview spending fights in the House next week, Cantor told House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) that spending levels could be set below 2008 levels.
The colloquy began when Hoyer asked Cantor to explain H.R. 38, which is expected to come up next week and gives Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) authority to set discretionary, non-security related spending at 2008 levels or lower.
Hoyer asked if there would be any House vote on the budget numbers that Ryan develops.
Cantor replied by saying Republicans are aiming to cap the remainder of discretionary, non-security spending for fiscal year 2011 at 2008 levels. Hoyer than noted the resolution says spending could be capped at 2008 levels “or less,” and asked if Ryan might go below 2008 levels. After Cantor said the intention is to cap spending “at 2008 levels,” Hoyer asked whether the “or less” language in the resolution is superfluous.
“I disagree,” Cantor said, and then acknowledged that “we could even find ourselves below 2008 levels.”
At that point, Hoyer protested the idea of giving Ryan the ability to set the spending ceiling for the rest of 2011 and said no one person should be given that authority. Cantor dismissed this by saying Republicans have been open and transparent about their desire to cut spending for the rest of this year and said Republicans are pursuing this strategy in large part because Democrats failed to pass a FY 2011 budget when they controlled the House.
Republicans argue the process under H.R. 38 is more open than some Democrats have suggested and will in fact allow for a vote on final FY 2011 spending levels.
As envisioned by Republicans, the Congressional Budget Office will soon release a report indicating how much money has been spent so far in fiscal year 2011. Based on that information, Ryan will determine how much more can be spent to ensure total spending is at 2008 levels (or less, as Cantor indicated).
That information will be used by the House Appropriations Committee to draft a continuing resolution, and that resolution will be voted on by the entire House. In this way, a House vote will be held on FY 2011 spending, even though there will not be any votes within the Budget Committee on the limits Ryan sets.
Hoyer asked if Republicans plan to hold hearings on spending cut proposals before calling for House votes on these proposals. Cantor said Republicans intend to have a “full debate” on these proposals as they come up. Republicans plan on weekly votes on spending reduction ideas.
Hoyer also asked Cantor if Republicans would allow an up or down vote on a bill to raise the debt ceiling later this year. Cantor did not answer this question directly, but said Republicans intend to show they can deliver on their electoral promise to cut government spending and spur job creation.
This story was updated at 12:56 p.m.