There's no chance the Senate is going to take up last week's House Republican budget cuts, yet it sent a loud, clear, muscular message to the other side of the Capitol that the Obama Democrats' spending-binge days are over.
The $61 billion the House would slice from this fiscal year's budget cut much more deeply into the government's discretionary programs than anyone expected, eliminating or shrinking dozens of programs and offices, even axing some of the GOP's own sacred cows, and slashing agencies by up to 40 percent.
When the smoke cleared from the GOP's fiery budget demolition derby, unimpressed Senate Democratic leaders said the bill was "dead on arrival." But with the March 4 deadline looming, when the temporary continuing-resolution spending bill expires, the Senate will be forced to cut more deeply than it otherwise would like in order to cut a compromise with the House to avoid a government shutdown.
A bipartisan gang of senators was already at work on a budget-cutting deal for the remaining fiscal year. Whether the House would accept it is another matter.
"I don't think the Senate will pass this cut. We will have to negotiate," said House Republican Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan Sunday on CBS' "Face the Nation." "Look, we're not looking for a government shutdown. But at the same time, we're also not looking at rubber-stamping these really high, elevated spending levels that Congress blew through the joint two years ago."
Deeper spending cuts in this fiscal year's remaining seven months were offered in the House floor debate, but they were voted down by wide margins.
Nevertheless, the sweeping cuts House Republicans approved would slash dozens of the Democrats' pet programs, from public television to farm subsidies. Among the victims:
c NPR and the Public Broadcasting System, whose news, public affairs, entertainment and numerous cooking shows have been made redundant by cable and broadcast network shows offering duplicate programming to much larger audiences.
c The Clinton administration's AmeriCorps and its parent agency, the Corporation for National and Community Service, which wastefully duplicate public-service programs at the state and local level.
c The multibillion-dollar fence and surveillance technology and border security forces patrolling the U.S. and Mexican border would lose $600 million.
c Eliminated, too, would be $2 billion in the Environmental Protection Agency's vast environmental armada of regulations, among an array of costs for other federal regulatory agencies.
c Few programs escape the GOP buzz saw, including the Peace Corps, NASA, economic development grants, the Army Corps of Engineers, family planning, Pell Grants and Amtrak.
c Even wasteful defense programs got the ax, too, including the development of the backup F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jet engine that the Pentagon never wanted and the administration rejected, saving billions in future costs.
"We held no program harmless from our spending cuts, and virtually no area of government escaped this process unscathed," said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers, Kentucky Republican, in a statement.
The proposed $61 billion budget cut is the largest in U.S. history, though seemingly less than the $100 billion the GOP promised to cut in its Pledge to America in the midterm elections.
But the House GOP's budget cuts for this fiscal year's final seven months would "actually exceed the commitment made by House Republicans ... which vowed to pull spending back to pre-stimulus, pre-bailout levels, achieving $100 billion in savings compared to the president's fiscal 2011 budget request over the course of a full fiscal year," the speaker's office said in a statement.
Meantime, the national news media is full of dire warnings of a budget showdown that could lead to a government shutdown if the two parties cannot reach agreement on a budget to run the federal government through September.
This kind of showdown has happened many times before, and the outcome will be the same this time as it has in the past, both sides finding a way to keep the government funded. With both houses in recess this week, it's unlikely that they can achieve a compromise budget by March 4, so another continuing resolution will be approved for a couple of weeks or more to buy time to reach a deal.
House and Senate Democratic leaders are as much to blame for this budgetary chaos as they are for the excessive spending that has pushed this year's monster deficit to a record $1.6 trillion.
Democrats fled Washington in the fall to campaign in the midterm elections, leaving behind a messy pile of unfinished, unenacted spending bills and the government without a budget.
Before scurrying out of town to face the voters, many for the last time, they passed a continuing resolution to keep the government running at Mr. Obama's existing, gold-plated funding levels. Last week's triage surgery on that continuing resolution is the House GOP's first draft attempt to cut the federal government down to a more affordable size.
Donald Lambro is a syndicated columnist and former chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.
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