Advancing a Free Society

Is the goal to fight or to cut spending?

Monday, March 28, 2011

In today’s Wall Street Journal, Janet Hook and Damien Paletta report that FY11 appropriations broke down last week and a “showdown looms.”

While some conservatives demand a high-profile government shutdown, almost two weeks ago I suggested a different strategy:

Instead of threatening to oppose the next CR no matter what, impatient fiscal conservatives should demand that their party leaders ratchet up the the spending cuts in the next CR.  Spending cutters, pull the Republican team in your direction.  Demand $3B of spending cuts per week rather than $2B.  If policy-specific funding limitations are a priority, choose onefunding limitation and insist that it be included in the next CR.  (I’d choose the EPA regs, which tend to unify Republicans and split Democrats.)  Use House Republican control of the legislative text to put the President and Leader Reid in the position where they have to choose between a little more savings and shutting down the government.  It’s hard for them to explain why $2B of savings per week is OK, but $3B per week is the end of the world.  Use that to your advantage.

I chose that $3B per week figure so that the full-year savings would exceed the $61B of cuts in H.R. 1. In this strategy, if the House passed repeated three-week CRs, with each one cutting $1B more per week than the previous one, they would in effect be ratcheting up the spending cuts by $333M per week for each of the 25 weeks left in this fiscal year.

Let’s examine a slight variant that is even more gradual than what I previously proposed. While negotiating with the President’s team and Senate Democrats, in this variant House Republicans continue to pass short-term Continuing Resolutions as long as there is not an acceptable full-year deal. In these repeated future CRs, they ratchet up the spending cuts by the paltry figure of only $100 million each week. (I previously recommended a bigger ratchet, which would turn once per CR. This is even more incremental, with smaller weekly ratchets.)

Under this new variant, as April 8th approaches House Republicans would pass another three week CR, one which cuts $2.1 B in its first week, $2.2 B in its second week, and $2.3 B in its third week. If another CR was needed after that, it would begin with $2.4 B of savings, and so on until the end of the fiscal year.

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