Boehner's proposed spending cuts for 2012 might be deal-breaker

Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) debt-ceiling proposal would cut only $6 billion in discretionary spending for 2012, a figure that could cost him the support of conservatives who want larger reductions.

Boehner is meeting with his members Tuesday morning to try to convince the majority of his conference to back his plan when it comes to the floor Wednesday. He would need the support of at least 218 Republicans to pass the plan without any Democratic votes. 

ADVERTISEMENT
House conservatives said they would be looking carefully at the text — especially at the 2012 number to determine whether they could support Boehner's two-step increase in the debt ceiling. 

On Monday night, freshman conservative stalwart Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) told The Hill that the amount of cuts for 2012 would be key to determining whether he can support the plan. 

“I didn’t get a warm fuzzy feeling about it,” he said of the proposal as it was described to him by Boehner on Monday. “I asked the question at conference about what the immediate cuts were; that question was not able to be immediately answered.”

On Tuesday he said he was still undecided.

"If you're looking at your scorecards at home, the question is, what is the first-year cut?" said Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) Monday evening, before the text of the proposal was released. "We still haven't seen that number yet."

Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) said coming out of a Tuesday caucus meeting that he is undecided about Boehner's plan. He said the 2012 number is a concern.

In contrast, Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.) said he supports the Boehner plan because it appears to be the last option for avoiding default. 

The text of the Boehner proposal, released late Monday night, caps discretionary spending at $1.043 trillion for 2012. That is $24 billion more than the spending level of $1.019 trillion in the House-passed budget and $6 billion less than the $1.049 trillion level worked out in the 2011 spending deal. 

The House Appropriations Committee has been working for months on the assumption it has only $1.019 trillion to spend.

The cap is still $78 billion less than the amount requested in President Obama’s 2012 budget, which was rejected unanimously by the Senate. 

The spending caps in Boehner's plan are meant to be a ceiling, and it remains unclear whether the GOP will push for a lower level. 

The fight over the spending cap comes amid a looming fight over the 2012 appropriations bills.

At this point, members of the House Appropriations Committee have said they hope the debt-ceiling negotiations would provide clarity on their process going forward, but a senior GOP aide said it is unclear whether the 12 appropriations bills would be rewritten to conform to the caps or if the GOP would forge ahead and try to make deeper cuts in the CR fight.

Ranking member Norm Dicks (D-Wash.) on Monday said he does not know if a spending-bill fight and another possible government shutdown can be avoided when fiscal 2011 spending runs out on Sept. 30 if there is a debt-ceiling compromise.

After 2012, discretionary spending is allowed to rise slowly. The caps for the following years through 2021 are: $1.047 trillion, $1.066 trillion, $1.086 trillion, $1.107 trillion, $1.131 trillion, $1.156 trillion, $1.182 trillion, $1.208 trillion and $1.234 trillion.

Overall, the Boehner plan lays out a two-step process whereby the president is allowed to request a debt-ceiling increase of $900 billion this year and then another $1.6 trillion.

For the first slice, Obama can get $400 billion in immediate borrowing authority upon request and an additional $500 billion if Congress does not vote to disapprove of the increase.

The second $1.6 trillion can be authorized only if a 12-member joint committee of Congress comes up with at least that much in savings by Nov. 23.


—This story was posted at 9:43 a.m. and has been updated.