House Republicans are falling behind in their aggressive schedule and are unlikely to consider a major spending-cut bill this month.
The GOP had hoped to hold a floor vote by late January on legislation rescinding already appropriated funds in the stimulus and other legislation, but it is now more likely that the rescission package will be folded into a measure to keep the government funded beyond March.
The schedule is slipping for more than one reason, according to Republican lawmakers and conservative analysts.
Emerson said part of the delay has been due to the attempted assassination of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) on Jan. 8, which led Republican leaders to postpone previously scheduled floor action for a full week.
Emerson’s subcommittee met for the first time last week to begin identifying cuts. “Obviously, we have to get our work done by March 4,” she said.
The January rescissions package plan was formulated when Republicans assumed that Democrats would fully fund fiscal 2011 by approving a long-term appropriations bill in the lame-duck session in December, said Brian Riedl of the Heritage Foundation. Instead, Democrats approved a short-term continuing resolution, which didn’t give Republicans a spending vehicle from which to make rescissions.
Though some Republicans would still like to move a package sooner, Reidl agreed the first major spending-cut bill is likely to move toward the end of February or in early March.
Appropriator Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) also said it is unclear when the first package of cuts will be ready to clear the full Appropriations Committee and that it “could easily be mid-February.” He said that staff was just starting to identify targets last week.
It appears likely a rescissions bill could wait until House Budget Committee Chairman Paul RyanPaul RyanRepublicans raise red flags about ObamaCare repeal strategy Overnight Healthcare: GOP in talks about helping insurers after ObamaCare repeal Ryan on Trump: 'We're not looking back' MORE (R-Wis.) sets 2011 spending ceilings at the very end of January or in early February.
The Appropriations Committee would then combine proposals for cuts with a continuing resolution to fund the government beyond through Sept. 30.
The delay creates some problems for Republicans.
The longer the GOP waits to move legislation rescinding already appropriated funds, the more likely it is that all the money from the 2009 stimulus bill will be spent. Only about $12 billion remained in October.
While work on the 2011 funding bill continues behind the scenes, Republicans led by House Majority Leader Eric CantorEric CantorChamber of Commerce overhauls lobbying operation Laura Ingraham under consideration for White House press secretary VA Dems jockey for Kaine's seat MORE (R-Va.) will try to maintain momentum by passing smaller bills over the next few weeks that reduce spending.
This week, the House is expected to vote on the Stop the Overprinting Act, which would eliminate mandatory printing of House-introduced bills and does not need Senate approval.
It follows a bill introducing a 5 percent cut to House office budgets, which passed the House overwhelmingly on Jan. 6.
The House Rules Committee on Saturday released an updated version of its overprinting bill. Sponsor Chris Lee (R-N.Y.) says it could save as much as $35 million over 10 years.
Separately, the Republican Study Committee (RSC) on Thursday will offer its proposal to impose deep spending cuts on the government. The bill was still being put together as of Friday.
“The RSC is currently developing a major spending reduction package that will include and go well beyond rescissions for [fiscal] 2011,” said Brian Straessle, spokesman for the House Republican Study Committee.
The RSC package is shaping up to be a vehicle for members not on the House Appropriations Committee to push their own spending-cut plans. The RSC has reached out to members soliciting their ideas.
The RSC process is running in parallel to work by the Appropriations Committee to come up with a spending-cuts bill.