House GOP unveils spending cuts for 2016

House Republican appropriators on Wednesday approved spending preliminary allocations for fiscal 2016 that stick to the overall $1.017 trillion cap under sequestration by slashing billions from government agencies.

“As we all know, we’re operating under a very constrained budget this year,” said Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), who described the allocations as “fair and balanced.”

Rogers said the panel prioritized funding and made “tough choices” to balance out budgetary increases.

Appropriators are proposing to cut funding next year in the following funding bills: Financial Services and General Government; Labor Department, Health and Human Services, and Education; and Interior and the Environment.

The figures point to a brewing conflict between the GOP-led Congress and the White House that could lead to another government shutdown fight in October.

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Office of Management and Budget Director Shaun DonovanShaun DonovanOvernight Healthcare: New momentum to lift ban on gay men donating blood White House makes last-ditch plea for opioid funding Overnight Energy: Coal industry group backs Trump MORE fired a warning shot to appropriators this week in a letter regarding bills funding energy and water development as well as military construction and veterans’ benefits. Both bills are scheduled to hit the House floor next week. 

Donovan told the leaders on the Appropriations panel that sequestration would put U.S. national security at risk and implied President Obama could issue veto threats for the spending bills if they abide by sequestration limits.

“That is why the president has been clear that he is not willing to lock in sequestration going forward, nor will he accept fixes to defense without also fixing non-defense," Donovan said.

The allocations cover all 12 appropriations bills that Congress must pass and send to Obama by Oct. 1 to keep the government funded.

Compared to 2015 spending levels, Republicans are proposing to cut about $2 billion from Financial Services and General Government, $246 million from Interior and the Environment and $4 billion from the Labor-HHS-Education bill.

The other allocations boost funding above 2015 levels for these bills: Agriculture; Commerce-Justice-Science; Defense; Energy and Water; Homeland Security; Legislative Branch; Military Construction and Veterans Affairs; State and Foreign Operations; and Transportation.

Republicans honor the House GOP budget adopted in late March that not only sticks to sequestration budget ceilings for next year but boosts defense funding through the overseas contingency operations (OCO) account.

The Pentagon operates most of the fund for war operations overseas, and the State Department controls a small portion. Appropriators are planning to allot a total of about $95 billion for OCO — about $88 billion for the Pentagon and $7 billion for the State Department.

Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), ranking member on Appropriations panel, offered an amendment that would provide an alternative set of spending allocations.

Her amendment proposed boosting funding for all 12 bills for a total of $1.2 trillion in base discretionary funding, busting the budget caps. She also proposed sticking to the same OCO amount in Obama’s request.

Lowey slammed Republicans for what she said amounted to $3.7 billion in cuts from “critical areas” in the Labor-HHS-Education bill, which covers biomedical research, public health, early childhood education, special needs and cuts to National Institutes of Health research grants.

“In contrast, the president’s budget contains a number of important investments that the majority’s proposal cannot fund,” Lowey said.

Rogers rejected the Lowey amendment, arguing that it “[shatters] caps provided by the recently passed House budget and the law of the land,” which is the Budget Control Act of 2011 that established the spending limits for a decade.

Democrats also appeared to describe some “cuts” by comparing the GOP’s allocations to the president’s budget request and not the 2015 funding levels. Rogers said that that was “misleading.”

While Republicans proposed to stick to sequestration budget caps, Obama proposed busting them by about $74 billion next year.

In a blog post Wednesday afternoon, Donovan compared the GOP allocations to Obama’s budget request that was submitted to Congress in early February. The biggest percentage cut between Obama’s proposal and the GOP’s was a 16.4 percent drop for Financial Services and General Government.