The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

National and world

September 23, 2013

GOP goes small with cuts: Proposals would counter only fraction of new debt

WASHINGTON, D.C. — House Republicans are far less ambitious this week in their demands for spending cuts to erase new debt issued to pay the government’s bills than they were during a budget battle two years ago.

The list of cuts under consideration now tallies up to a fraction of the almost $1 trillion in additional borrowing that would be permitted under a GOP proposal for enabling the government to pay its bills through December of next year.

Two years ago, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, insisted on spending cuts totaling $2.1 trillion over a decade as the price to meet President Barack Obama’s demand for a like-sized increase in the government’s borrowing cap, also known as the debt ceiling.

Those cuts involved tighter “caps” on agency operating budgets as well as the automatic, across-the-board cuts known as sequestration triggered by the failure of a deficit “supercommittee” to reach a deal.

The problem now is that there isn’t a roster of big, politically palatable cuts ready to go. Instead, Republicans have put together a grab bag of smaller savings ideas, like higher pension contributions for federal workers, higher premiums for upper-income Medicare beneficiaries, caps on medical malpractice verdicts and reduced payments to hospitals that treat more poor people than average.

A leading set of proposals comes from a House GOP leadership office and was circulating on Washington’s K Street lobbying corridor on Monday. It includes a plan to increase pension contributions of federal civilian workers by up to 5 percentage points and lowering the federal match accordingly, which could help defray the deficit by up to $84 billion over a decade. Another, to block immigrants in the country illegally from claiming the child tax credit would save just $7 billion over the same period. Eliminating the Social Services Block Grant, a flexible funding stream for states to help with day care, Meals on Wheels, and drug treatment facilities, would save less than $2 billion a year.

Taken together, these proposals and others could cut spending by perhaps $200 billion over the coming decade. While GOP aides say details aren’t set, House leaders are looking at an increase in the current $16.7 trillion debt ceiling sufficient to cover the government’s bills until the beginning of 2015. According to calculations by the Bipartisan Policy Center think tank in Washington, that would require raising the borrowing cap by almost $1 trillion.

Boehner insists that any increase in the borrowing cap be matched by budget cuts and other reforms to produce savings of an equal amount, though not on a dollar-for-dollar basis over 10 years like in 2011. It’s a somewhat nebulous standard because of the difficulty in quantifying how much any given “reform” is worth.

Obama says he won’t negotiate concessions as the price for authority to continue borrowing to cover bills already incurred and promises already made and has demanded a “clean” debt limit increase with no conditions attached.

The looming debt limit showdown is separate from the “defund Obamacare” fight occupying the Senate this week in the face of Oct. 1 deadline for completing a temporary spending bill and a averting a partial government shutdown.

GOP lawmakers and aides say the debt ceiling measure will be paired with a one-year delay in requiring people to buy health insurance under Obama’s Affordable Care Act or face federal fines. They also plan to attach to it a tax reform package lowering rates and closing loopholes, an increase in offshore oil leases and approval of the Keystone XL pipeline.

Boehner views tax reform and the Keystone pipeline as economy boosters that will produce new government revenues exceeding any debt limit increase. A boost in growth domestic product (GDP) of just one-tenth of 1 percentage point, for example, would increase the government revenues by more than $300 billion over a decade according to the Congressional Budget Office.

“While we’re still working on the details, the proposal will comply with the Boehner rule in terms of reducing the deficit,” said Boehner spokesman Michael Steel.

Still, the proposals pale in comparison to ideas in the non-binding GOP budget plan passed earlier this year, which promised a balanced budget in 10 years that was possible only with severe cuts to Medicaid, food stamps and domestic programs like health research, housing, education and others. The GOP budget promised $4.6 trillion in cuts over a decade but didn’t give a lot of specifics about how deeply many programs would have to be cut.

Other proposals listed in the GOP leadership’s list of options, include:

—Eliminating the authority of the government to charge a bailout fee to big banks under the Dodd-Frank financial oversight law. The fee could only be charged it there’s a major bank failure. The document claims $23 billion in savings.

—Increase Medicare “means testing” to permit higher premiums for Medicare beneficiaries, raising $56 billion.

—Cap “pain and suffering” damages in medical malpractice lawsuits to $250,000 and cap punitive damages at the greater of $250,000 or twice the economic damages in such suits.

—Reduce a gimmick in which states levy taxes on health care providers as a way to game the Medicaid system and receive higher federal payments at a savings of $11 billion.

1
Text Only
National and world
  • CDC Ebola web.jpg U.S. warns against traveling to Ebola-hit countries

    “The bottom line is Ebola is worsening in West Africa,” said Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who announced the travel warning.

    August 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • Mideast web.jpg Gaza truce comes after days of pushing for a deal

    Finally, less than an hour after all sides signed off on the precise and technical wording for a 72-hour truce, Kerry issued a statement and called a 3:30 a.m. Friday press conference to seal the deal before any party could back out.

    August 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • Taiwan web.jpg Gas explosions kill 24, injure 271 in Taiwan

    The fires were believed caused by a leak of propene, a petrochemical material not intended for public use, but the source of the gas was not immediately clear, officials said.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • Congress web.jpg Congress races to finish VA, highway bills

    House Speaker John Boehner accused Democrats of pursuing a “nutso scheme” of trying to seize on the border crisis to try and grant a path to citizenship to millions of immigrants living in the country illegally.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • Illinois Unemployment_Hass.jpg As U.S. job market strengthens, many don't feel it

    "If the economy is getting better, I'm not sure for whom. It certainly hasn't trickled down to me." — Douglas Hunter, who earned $14 an hour before the Great Recession and now works three days a week for $9.25 an hour, mopping floors and fixing fryers at McDonald's.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • House Obama Lawsuit.jpg Republican-led House approves lawsuit against President Obama

    Just a day before lawmakers were to begin a five-week summer recess, debate over the proposed lawsuit underscored the harshly partisan tone that has dominated the current Congress almost from its start in January 2013.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • Russia Putin web.jpg Sanctions could damage Russia

    The sanctions go further than earlier penalties — which had largely targeted individuals — by broadly limiting the trade of weapons and of technology that can be used in the oil and military industries. The EU also put its capital markets off-limits to Russian state-owned banks.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • Mideast Libya web.jpg Thousands flee to Tunisia to escape Libya fighting

    Many diplomats, including the U.S. ambassador, have pulled out of the country. With the interim government paralyzed, the fighting threatens the planned opening session of the newly elected parliament on Aug. 4.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Obit Robert Drew web.jpg Cinema verite documentarian Robert Drew dies

    Starting in 1960 with “Primary,” Drew produced and sometimes directed a series of television documentaries that took advantage of such innovations as light hand-held cameras that recorded sound and pictures.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Obama Ukraine Russia_Hass_W.jpg GOP-led House approves lawsuit against Obama

    The suit will contend that Obama has exceeded his constitutional powers in the way he has enforced the 2010 health care law.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

Featured Ads