Hoyer blasts White House rescission plan: Why no Defense cuts?

Hoyer blasts White House rescission plan: Why no Defense cuts?
© Greg Nash

As Republicans rally around a White House plan to cancel billions of dollars in unspent federal funds, Rep. Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerPelosi wants party leadership elections post-Thanksgiving The Hill's Morning Report — Trump denigrates NATO allies, floats 4 percent solution Dems struggle with unity amid leadership tensions MORE (D-Md.) is asking why the Pentagon is immune to the cuts.

“Not a nickel from Defense. ... Not a nickel,” Hoyer told reporters in the Capitol.

“It defies logic that if you’re going to rescind money that’s not being used, that the only place to look is [nondefense program such as] Medicare and Medicaid,” he added. “Their logic is they want to cut nondefense discretionary spending — whatever it is. And we’re obviously opposed to that as a focus.”

President TrumpDonald John TrumpReporters defend CNN's Acosta after White House says he 'disrespected' Trump with question Security costs of Trump visit to Scotland sparks outrage among Scottish citizens Ex-CIA officer: Prosecution of Russians indicted for DNC hack 'ain't ever going to happen' MORE’s plan, formally delivered to Congress on Tuesday, would rescind $15.4 billion in previously approved federal outlays, including $7 billion intended for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), a state-based initiative benefiting children from low-income households.

The proposal would not affect spending allocated under the 2018 omnibus package, which passed in March with broad bipartisan support. And GOP leaders, who are facing fire for the soaring deficit spending under their watch, are billing the rescissions as a common-sense strategy for reducing red ink.

“It's looking at funding that has been sitting aside more than one, two and three years. It cannot be used and is just sitting in an account,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyElon Musk donated nearly K to Republican PAC, filings show Eric Holder: Calls to abolish ICE are 'a gift to Republicans' Jordan weathering political storm, but headwinds remain MORE (R-Calif.) said Tuesday during a press briefing in the Capitol. “Why would you let it sit there and waste and not give it back to the American public?”

Hoyer, the minority whip, said Democrats are not opposed to the concept of clawing back government funds that have gone unused. But the Republicans’ plan, he charged, targets vulnerable populations while letting conservative special interests, like the well-heeled defense industry, off the hook.

“If there are items where money is in the budget and is not going to be used and is not necessary, you know ... we have supported it. So it’s not as a policy that we’re opposed to,” Hoyer said.

Indeed, the Democrats had backed billions of dollars in CHIP rescissions in the March omnibus bill. Hoyer said the difference now is that, under Trump’s proposal, the funds will be clawed back to the Treasury, in lieu of being diverted to other programs similar to CHIP.

“They’ve used that money, and applied it, as they did in the 2018 omnibus, to related programs,” Hoyer said. “It’s the availability of the money for filling holes where they exist.” 

House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiTop Democrats request meeting with intel chief over sharing of classified info Overnight Defense: Fears rise over Trump-Putin summit | McCain presses Trump to hold Putin 'accountable' for hacking | Pentagon does damage control after NATO meet 'Our Cartoon President' takes on Mueller probe, NATO and Melania in second season MORE (D-Calif.) agreed, arguing Tuesday that any unused CHIP funds have historically been tapped for like-minded programs. 

“Everybody doesn’t spend down to the very [last] penny, but you channel it into other areas that are supportive of the purpose of that money in the first place,” Pelosi said during an interview with Politico Playbook. “That’s not an unusual thing.”

Pelosi noted that the administration’s rescission proposal came in the same week that first lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Sponsored by Delta Air Lines — Mueller indicts 12 Russian officials for DNC hack | Trump does damage control after bombshell interview Queen Elizabeth greets Trump for first visit to UK as president Trump: Queen Elizabeth is ‘just an incredible woman’ MORE launched an outreach program designed to boost the well-being of children.

“I don’t know who’s doing the timing in the White House,” Pelosi quipped.

Under special fast-track rules, Congress has 45 days to act on Trump’s request. The measure cannot be filibustered, meaning the Republicans could move it through both chambers without any Democratic support.

Separately, GOP leaders are also eyeing plans to rescind funding that was recently allocated in the omnibus — an effort Pelosi predicted is dead on arrival in Congress.

“I don’t think that has any chance,” she said.