House Fires Salvo to Cut FY2011 Non-Security Spending to FY2008 Levels

House Fires Salvo to Cut FY2011 Non-Security Spending to FY2008 Levels

As some Republicans have been championing for months, the House passed a resolution today calling for the FY2011 budget to hold non-security spending to FY2008 levels. It is the first salvo in what likely will be a long 6-week fight over how to deal with the remainder of FY2011.

The non-binding resolution, H. Res. 38, is very brief and has no budget numbers in it. The full text is as follows:

“Resolved, That pursuant to section 3(b)(1) of House Resolution 5, the Chair of the Committee on the Budget shall include in the Congressional Record an allocation contemplated by section 302(a) for the Committee on Appropriations for the remainder of fiscal year 2011 that assumes non-security spending at fiscal year 2008 levels or less.”

It passed by a vote of 256-165. It basically allows the chairman of the Budget Committee, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), to establish the amount of funds the 12 appropriations subcommittees have to spend for the rest of FY2011. No action by the Budget Committee or the House is required. Federal agencies are currently funded through March 4, 2011. Congress must pass another appropriations measure to fund agencies after that date or the government will close down.

The House appropriations subcommittees still would have the flexibility to determine which agencies get what amount of money, but within the threshold set by Rep. Ryan.

“Security” spending traditionally means defense and homeland security, so they would not be subject to this resolution (veterans services also are sometimes included). Nor would mandatory spending on programs such as social security, Medicare or Medicaid. The resolution would affect NASA, NOAA and other federal activities in the “domestic discretionary funding” category.

At the same time, some news reports state that President Obama will propose in his State of the Union Address tonight a freeze on domestic discretionary funding. Exceptions can always be made, so it is not certain that NASA would be included. Other news reports, for example, say that the President will emphasize that investments in high-speed rail, clean energy and scientific research will help create jobs and thus should not be cut.

The State of the Union address will be aired live at 9:00 pm EST, but that is only the beginning of what almost certainly will be a difficult set of negotiations over the FY2011 budget and those that follow.

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