Today, the top Republican on the House Budget Committee released a report outlining his priorities for the Fiscal Year 2013 budget debate. Titled “The Path to Prosperity,” the report summarizes and explains Chairman Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) forthcoming budget resolution, which is scheduled to be marked up in the committee tomorrow morning.
As expected, the House budget will include sharp cuts to both discretionary and mandatory programs, even below the levels agreed upon by both parties during last summer’s passage of the Budget Control Act (BCA). This results in differing approaches in the House and Senate, as today Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND) filed a deeming resolution in that chamber setting the budget caps for the coming fiscal year at levels consistent with the BCA spending caps. As explained in CWLA’s detailed summary of the Budget Control Act, passage of that law put in place a series of spending caps specifying discretionary funding levels for the next 10 years. Last year, the spending cap was set at $1.043 trillion and Congress funded the appropriations bills at that level. The spending cap for Fiscal Year 2013 under the BCA is $1.047 trillion. The House budget resolution would cut further below that cap, reducing discretionary spending another $19 billion to $1.028 trillion.
Furthermore, beginning in January, 2013 a series of automatic cuts known as sequestration are scheduled to go into effect. In the first year these cuts would total approximately $110 billion, with half coming from defense programs and half coming from non-defense programs. The House budget resolution would repeal the $55 billion in defense cuts scheduled to go into effect, while leaving in place the others. In addition, the repealed defense cuts would be offset by further cuts to non-defense spread out over the next several years. Once again, non-defense programs would be expected to bear the burden of all of the spending cuts.
With respect to mandatory spending, the House budget again this year proposes changes to a number of entitlement programs. Medicaid would be replaced with block grants to states that would be capped and indexed for population growth and inflation, but not the cost of medical care. Overall the House budget would reduce Medicaid funding by over $800 billion in the next 10 years. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP or food stamp) program would also be converted to a block grant and eligibility would be curtailed along with program funding. Recipients of Medicaid, food stamps, and other means-tested programs would also be subjected to stringent work requirements and time limits, similar to those imposed in the 1990’s for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF, formerly Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFCD).
It is important to remember the context in which these cuts are being proposed. The 2011 and 2012 appropriations processes already made significant cuts to a number of discretionary programs and the Budget Control Act spending caps alone would result in almost $1 trillion in discretionary spending cuts over the next decade. The latest proposed cuts in the House budget resolution would be in addition to these already-enacted cuts.
**UPDATE (3/21/12): The budget resolution passed the House Budget Committee today on a 19-18 vote. It is expected to be voted on by the full House of Representatives as early as next week.