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Posted at 1:52 PM ET, 01/21/2011

House GOP proposal to cut D.C. budget stands little chance of passage

By Ben Pershing

The proposal by a group of House Republican conservatives to cut annual federal spending by at least $100 billion got wide attention Thursday, including from District denizens concerned that the city's budget is on the chopping block.

Included in a laundry list of proposed cuts released by the Republican Study Committee was the elimination of "General Assistance to District of Columbia" for a projected annual savings of $210 million. The line caught the eye of Washington City Paper's Loose Lips blog, which quoted D.C. budget official Eric Goulet saying the cuts would have a "catastrophic effect" on the city.

So what exactly is the RSC proposing to cut?

An aide to the conservative group pointed D.C. Wire to a tome everyone has handy -- the Congressional Budget Office's "Budget Options, Volume 2," published in August 2009. The document is designed to provide members of Congress with "options for altering federal spending and revenues." The CBO is a nonpartisan body and is not endorsing any of the suggestions, merely laying them out.

The source of the RSC's proposal is on page 164 of the document, under the heading "Eliminate General Fiscal Assistance to the District of Columbia." The idea would be to eliminate federal funding for the District that was not included in the 1997 National Capital Revitalization and Self-Government Improvement Act.

Specifically, the CBO writes, "In 2009, such general assistance totals $202 million: $35 million in tuition support for city residents; $54 million for school improvements and scholarships; $20 million for education reform; $54 million for general assistance that includes payments for laboratory facilities, libraries, and the water and sewer authority; and $39 million for emergency planning and security."

For fiscal 2011, the numbers are a bit higher, which seems to explain where the RSC got the $210 million number. Notably, the proposal would not cut the nearly $250 million the federal government currently provides to the District to fund its courts and prisons, nor would it cut federal outlays that pay the lion's share of its Medicaid costs and cover some of the city's pension obligations.

The RSC proposal's impact on the D.C. area would be felt in other ways. The group also suggests cutting the federal government's subsidy to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, for an annual savings of $150 million, which would add significantly to the system's financial woes.

But do these proposed cuts stand much chance of becoming law? Probably not.

First, the spending proposal unveiled Thursday does not represent the views of the House Republican leadership, or the consensus opinion of the full GOP Conference. It only has the backing of the RSC, and notably, the group isn't actually endorsing every cut on the list. RSC officials made clear Thursday that they were simply presenting a broad list of suggestions and that the whole group didn't necessarily endorse any of the ideas.

Second, it's worth noting that the RSC has been proposing a broad array of spending cuts for several years, most of which never end up becoming law or even making it into legislation endorsed by the party leadership. The group regularly offers its own full-fledged budget proposal, separate from the official House Republican proposal, that has never gotten a majority of House votes.

Third, and most important, Democrats still control the Senate and the White House and would look askance at any proposal that seriously undermined the District's financial position.

Given the ballooning federal deficit and the emphasis placed on spending cuts by the new House GOP majority, it's certainly possible that the D.C. budget could end up getting squeezed. But there's no reason at this point to believe that the RSC's proposal this week would be signed into law.

By Ben Pershing  | January 21, 2011; 1:52 PM ET
Categories:  Ben Pershing, Budget, City Finances, Congressional Oversight  
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"little chance of passage"

This sounds like a line we'll be hearing a lot in the next several months.

Posted by: mypitts2 | January 21, 2011 2:11 PM | Report abuse

sorry guys...salaries/pentions all have to be adjusted..caps on medical across the line..FLAT tax/fed/state..

Posted by: rw62827 | January 21, 2011 2:17 PM | Report abuse

Since we cannot agree on how to spend the $5-Billion we're borrowing every day, or the $75-Billion the Fed is printing every month to prop up the market for our debt, I wonder if we could agree that whatever else we do or do not do, the electorate of the world's greatest democracy and only military super-power, should call a halt to these two disgraceful practices, and insist that our political leaders limit their spending to funds which were actually earned by someone, rather than living off the national credit card?

The only redeeming aspect of being broke is that it forces us to face reality, and thereby (at least) gives us a fighting chance of fixing what is broken in our methods. Every pundit on every issue, regardless of whether liberal or conservative, relies upon the same 'denial by consensus' of the stark reality that this nation is failing badly. The baby-boom generation (of which I am a part) has demonstrated itself to be a generation of trust-funders, content to live off the legacy assets left by our predecessors, while continuing to indulge our fantasies of moral superiority and technical savvy. And yet, considering all the advantages we started with, this country hasn't turned a profit in 36 years, and we have a credit-card balance roughly equivalent to one-year's gross income.

Perhaps we believe that some other country is going to organize an intervention on our behalf. For quite some time, our former nemesis, The People's Republic of China has been keeping us afloat, and our Arab friends have been careful not to gouge us too deeply for the oil they provide. (After all, if you're sucking the blood out of an animal, why not keep it alive as long as possible?) And nobody works very hard to dispute our assertion that our behavior is excusable, under the general rubrik "The American Exception". But I wonder what they'll do if (when) the house of cards we have built for ourselves begins to collapse? Will they continue to loan us money in return for a substantially higher rate of interest? Will they continue to accept US Dollars created out of thin-air by Ben Bernanke in return for their oil, or to keep our massively complex supply-chains running?

I'm sure there are some high-powered financiers and economists who believe they will. I, on the other hand, am skeptical. I wonder how much time we've got left to clean up our act before we wake up one morning and find ourselves digging out from under the rubble of "the greatest democracy on Earth".

Food for thought, as we ponder the next increase in the national credit limit anticipated by those who run our country.

Posted by: thomas777 | January 21, 2011 2:20 PM | Report abuse

They could easily find that $100 billion in the waste, bloat and corruption in the defense budget. We spend more than the rest of the world combined on "defense" and haven't won a single war since World War II, except for Desert Storm which was successful because it was focused and limited to a specific objective--get Iraq out of Kuwait. Period.

There is absolutely no reason why Defense spending should not also be on the chopping block but conservatives would rather freeze and starve ordinary people to death than give up the propagandist belief that we need millions of soldiers and thousands of bases all over the world.

As for the District of Columbia, since Congress denies it statehood or representation, any funding cuts should be matched by a corresponding cut in service to all members of Congress and their families.

It's way past time that members of Congress also share the pain of whatever cuts they make.

Posted by: windrider2 | January 21, 2011 2:38 PM | Report abuse

little chance...then anyone that lines up on the little chance BS...take names/note so they are not--NOT--relected..

Posted by: rw62827 | January 21, 2011 2:47 PM | Report abuse

This is the talk we will be hearing for the next two years if both parties don't work together.

sorry guys...salaries/pentions all have to be adjusted..caps on medical across the line..FLAT tax/fed/state..

That sounds good, but the countries that do use a flat tax also have a luxury tax. Do you want the feds or state deciding what is and what is not a luxury?

Posted by: sandman839 | January 21, 2011 2:50 PM | Report abuse

Why is it that each and every time that a budget reduction is discussed for any specific program the defenders 'come out of the walls?'

There isn't one sane person in this nation that doesn't agree that the federal government has absolutely ruined this nation financially.

And there isn't one sane person in this nation who doesn't believe that we should radically reduce spending.

The problem apparently lays in the simple fact that everyone wants to have the other guy's appropriation cut but their's is a necessity.

The people of this nation better begin to understand that everyone one of us is going to have to live more austerely for years to come if we are to save this nation.

I state this as a 79 year old person who lived thru the entire depression of the '30's. However, I don't believe the generations of today are willing to give up enough to right this sinking ship.

We 'have to have' our cell phones, Ipods, Kindles, flat screen TV's, new cars, central air and heat, XBoxes, home computers and God knows what all in order to feel 'fulfilled.'

What is apparent is that we require instant satisfaction with absolutely no inconvenience, no discomfort.

I wonder how us 'old duffers' ever built such a successful nation with thriving industry without the cell phone, Google, Facebook, MySpace, etc.

We sure must have been real dummies.

Posted by: dharper2 | January 21, 2011 3:09 PM | Report abuse

The Nation is now facing the tab for the last 60 years of progressive and government largess at taxpayer expense. This has, among other things, allowed the stench to surface of the government and government unions raping the taxpayer. The government has now passed the debt of Wall Street and the bankers to the taxpayers. They are running out of suckers to hand the bill to.

The government will have no option other than to cut spending. Raising taxes to cover the bail-outs of Wall Street and the banks, or to cover ridiculous government unions pay and pensions will go over like the proverbial tird in the punch bowl.

There is much work to do in 2012 to run out the rino's and all members of the Democratic Progressive Union Socialist Communist Party. With a new president and new Senate perhaps the Nation can be saved.

Posted by: Bubbette1 | January 21, 2011 3:22 PM | Report abuse

Does it have little chance to pass because the overspending left wants it that way? They really care about our well being. They really care whats best for the People. They care about themselves and only themselves. They care about spending us in to the next depression. For all the gullible souls out there that continue to follow the leftist agenda. Just wait, while you continue to be lead around by the nose by these fools you soon will have no more compensation when the money can not be printed anymore.

Posted by: Lanche | January 21, 2011 10:34 PM | Report abuse

I'm pretty sure D.C. area was the one area of the country that Wasn't affected by the recession the past couple years-- due to all the government jobs!
Time to share the pain!

Posted by: ohioan | January 21, 2011 11:43 PM | Report abuse

Overspending by the left? Last I looked the largest deficits in U.S. history were all rung up by republican presidents, you remember, their names were Reagan and Bush. And that doesn't even count those two idiotic wars of choice Iraq and Afghanistan, which Bush financed with "creative bookkeeping" off the books. The right wing lives in a fantasy world of so called "fiscal responsibility" as if they ever had any, and never finds fault where it lies.

Posted by: USblues2 | January 22, 2011 12:05 AM | Report abuse

Nice Article. I just now got Coupons of my Favorite Brands at "Printapons" search online and start saving now

Posted by: helenrae | January 22, 2011 4:07 AM | Report abuse

You can't just add new Spending for New Programs-- on top of existing spending.
No matter what you call these programs, no matter how you change the name of the program, it doesn't matter.
We need to fix Washington: scrutinize the
salaries/benefits/pensions of federal workers - the same way we need to scrutinize state and government workers
We need to "fix" the programs that aren't working, like Social security, Medicare, etc .
"fixing" an entitlement program does not mean you're eliminating it.. you're only making it more effective, and yes, we do need to do means testing.

Posted by: ohioan | January 23, 2011 9:50 AM | Report abuse

Democrats have big problems:
1)they Rammed their liberal entitlement program, ObamaCare, down our throats;
2) they have a President who's "best buddies" with the Unions;
3) a President who's done nothing but Demonize business for the past 2 years.
4) failed "green energy" stimulus Jobs - government gave Evergreen $55 Million to create jobs, and after they got the money this company moves the jobs Overseas and 800 people in Massachusetts Lose their jobs!
Judge this president by his Actions -- instead of his Rhetoric.

Posted by: ohioan | January 23, 2011 11:15 AM | Report abuse

I've got a budget cut solution for congress. Cut your salaries and donate your campaign money to fund public programs. Why should elected public servants lead such extravegant lifestyles? First class travel, private security, mansions, ranches, multiple luxury cars, top shelf parties, and conventions. Are these things that necessaary? For those of you who say cut public funding more such as the suggestion to cut tuition support mentioned in this article, how do you expect the "leachers" of public funding to ever gain financial independence? Our way of thinking about social class and education needs to change in this country and keeping people in poverty is not the right direction.

Posted by: smartguy4 | January 25, 2011 8:47 AM | Report abuse

I am not surprised that there is resistance for budget cuts. Some taxpayers have experienced 50% cuts in their personal life's budget. But, those who take other people's monies from the working class aren't about to make the sacrifice. They will suck our blood until there is nothing left to feed on!

Posted by: cardinaldog | January 25, 2011 11:12 AM | Report abuse

Taxation without representation OR funding. The GOP wishes to totally and completely disenfranchise every single District resident; irrespective of your political affiliation. We should be equally appalled.

Yesteday they announced a proposal to raise the retirement age and cut medicare benefits and now this. By the time I retire, these ignorant baby boomers will have raised the age to 85 and sucked up all the financial benfits upon themselves.

Seniors, Generation X'ers and Y'ers need to speak out now and loud. The enemy is the baby boomer politicians.

Posted by: concernedaboutdc | January 25, 2011 11:31 AM | Report abuse

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