- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 3, 2011

The chairman of the House Budget Committee on Thursday said the House will cut at least $44 billion from last year’s non-security discretionary spending — an amount that falls short of the GOP’s pledge just months ago to return to pre-stimulus levels.

Rep. Paul Ryan, Wisonsin Republican, said he will file a budget next week that caps discretionary spending in 2011 at $1.055 trillion — $74 billion less than the proposal President Obama offered last year, but short of the $100 billion target the GOP made in its “Pledge to America.”

The numbers will set the ceiling for spending when the House writes the 2011 spending bills, which are already four months overdue.

“Washington’s spending spree is over,” Mr. Ryan said in a statement. “As House Republicans pledged — and voted to affirm on the House floor last week — the spending limits will restore sanity to a broken budget process and return spending for domestic government agencies to pre-stimulus, pre-bailout levels.”

Democrats said the cuts went too far.

“I believe it is essential to address our large and unsustainable budget deficit, but we cannot do so at the expense of our economic recovery and the need to foster job growth,” said Chris Van Hollen, Maryland Democrat and ranking member of the House Budget Committee. “The immediate spending cuts proposed today by House Republicans will harm the economy and put more people out of work.”

When compared to the the budget plan Mr. Obama offered last February, Mr. Ryan’s plan reduces proposed non-discretionary spending by $58 billion and proposed security spending by $16 billion.

While it is indisputable that the plan will put House Republicans on the path toward reduced spending, it’s up for debate whether it allows them to say they fulfilled their campaign promise to write a budget that sticks to 2008 spending levels, which they vowed in their “Pledge to America” that they released last September.

In 2008, non-security discretionary spending was $378 billion. Under Mr. Ryan’s plan, the same spending line is set at $420 billion.

But Mr. Ryan and other GOP leaders argue that cuts had to be scaled back — essentially pro-rated — because by the time Congress adopts a new budget, the federal government will already be five months into the new fiscal year, which runs from Oct. 1, 2010, to Sept. 30, 2011.

Republican leaders blame Democrats, who controlled the chamber until this month, for failing to pass any of the spending bills and failing to agree on an overall budget target.

Instead, they approved a stop-gap spending bill to keep the government funded through March 4 and pushed the responsibility of carving out a new budget into the laps of the incoming Congress.

The House paved the way for the budget targets last week by passing a non-binding resolution that granted Mr. Ryan the power to establish a spending ceiling.

“The spending limit measure marks another step in House Republicans’ continued efforts to change Washington’s pervasive culture of spending,” Mr. Ryan said on Thursday.