White House to request Congress rescind $15 billion in spending

White House to request Congress rescind $15 billion in spending
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The White House is set to ask Congress to revoke $15 billion in spending, starting a 45-day clock for Congress to act. 

The formal request in spending, higher than the $11 billion that had been expected, is likely to come on Tuesday. It is the largest individual rescission request since the passage of the 1974 budget act, said a senior administration official.

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Nearly half of the $15 billion — $7 billion — will come from two accounts in the Child Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The White House sees the cuts as uncontroversial because the money represents unspent funds from expired programs, such as a fund to reimburse some state expenses in fiscal 2017. 

“This is not a situation where someone is making a proposal that would harm the program in any way,” said the official. 

Other cuts include funds allocated for technology loans programs that have not distributed loans for several years, funds that had been set aside for the 2014 Ebola outbreak, which has since been contained, and funds for an expired railroad program. It also targets unspent funds for a Medicare and Medicaid innovation associated with ObamaCare that has already been funded for the coming years, according to the official.

The White House is also working on a second request to rescind funding passed in the 2018 omnibus.

The change from $11 billion to $15 billion is an attempt to find a middle ground among competing factions of Republicans.

Conservatives want the rescinded figure to be as high as possible, but other Republicans balked at clawing back money from the recently approved omnibus bill, forcing the White House to look for a compromise. Yet it’s not clear if the new figure will satisfy anyone.

“It's better than nothing,” Rep. Warren DavidsonWarren Earl DavidsonNew push to open banks to marijuana industry Washington must defend American crypto innovation, not crush it GOP lawmaker unveils bill soliciting private contributions to pay for border wall MORE (R-Ohio), a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, said of the $11 billion figure.

Democrats pounced on the focus on CHIP funds, accusing Republicans of targeting children’s health care.

“Let’s be honest about what this is: President TrumpDonald John TrumpHow to stand out in the crowd: Kirsten Gillibrand needs to find her niche Countdown clock is on for Mueller conclusions Omar: White supremacist attacks are rising because Trump publicly says 'Islam hates us' MORE and Republicans in Congress are looking to tear apart the bipartisan Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), hurting middle-class families and low-income children, to appease the most conservative special interests and feel better about blowing up the deficit to give the wealthiest few and biggest corporations huge tax breaks,” Senate Minority Leader Chares Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement. 

Republicans have been under pressure to take action to cut spending in the face of deficits that are projected to explode on their watch.

The White House floated the idea of clawing back spending shortly after President Trump grudgingly signed a $1.3 trillion bipartisan spending bill into law in late March. Conservatives heavily criticized the spending bill for busting through federal budget caps. 

Earlier Monday, Americans for Prosperity, a group backed by conservative mega-donors Charles and David Koch, released a series of recommendations for $45 billion worth of rescission cuts.

“Eliminating this spending through rescission is the least Washington lawmakers could do to start repairing some of the damage they’ve caused before turning to the next budget deadline,” said Alison Acosta Winters, a senior policy fellow at Americans for Prosperity. 

A rescission package is likely to face a difficult road to passage in the House and would appear to be dead on arrival in the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellLessons from the 1999 U.S. military intervention in Kosovo Five things to watch as AIPAC conference kicks off Romney helps GOP look for new path on climate change MORE (R-Ky.) has been disinterested in the idea. Rescission bills only need simple majorities to pass and are not subject to a Senate filibuster.

Critics of the claw-back maneuver said proposals to rescind as much as $60 billion would fly in the face of bipartisan negotiations that led to the spending bill, which was approved in the GOP-controlled House and Senate with Democratic votes. 

Budget watchers note that scrapping $15 billion in funding won’t make a dent in the nation’s fiscal outlook, both because it represents a tiny sliver of national spending and because the funds in question were already defunct.

“It has no effect, as I understand it on the deficit,” said Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerTrump keeps tight grip on GOP Brexit and exit: A transatlantic comparison Sasse’s jabs at Trump spark talk of primary challenger MORE (R-Tenn.), a fiscal hawk.

“It’s window dressing. The thing to have done would have been not to negotiate an omnibus that jacks up spending as much as it does,” he added.

Last week, the White House circulated a fact sheet proposing a reduced rescission request of just $11 billion, focused exclusively on unspent funds from previous appropriations, such as some approved funding from the 2009 stimulus package.

The White House said that the request would not be the only one it makes to address spending. It is eyeing an additional $10 billion in cuts, according to The Washington Post.  

Davidson said that such savings could be put toward projects such as infrastructure, a presidential priority that has gained little traction.

“If we can't find a way to save some money or prioritize our spending, how are we going to prioritize our infrastructure?” Davidson said. 

A recent report by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) found that the national debt is on track to explode, nearly matching the size of the U.S. economy by 2028. 

The CBO report noted that increased discretionary spending passed in the omnibus was only one of several factors driving the debt. The GOP tax law, it found, would cost $1.9 trillion over a decade. 

Updated at 6:44 p.m.