AP: Details of last week’s hard-won agreement to avoid a government shutdown and cut federal spending by $38 billion were released Tuesday morning. They reveal that the budget cuts, while historic, were significantly eased by pruning money left over from previous years, using accounting sleight of hand and going after programs President Barack Obama had targeted anyway.
Such moves permitted Obama to save favorite programs – Pell grants for poor college students, health research and “Race to the Top” aid for public schools, among others – from Republican knives.
..As a result of the legerdemain, Obama was able to reverse many of the cuts passed by House Republicans in February when the chamber approved a bill slashing this year’s budget by more than $60 billion. In doing so, the White House protected favorites like the Head Start early learning program, while maintaining the maximum Pell grant of $5,550 and funding for Obama’s “Race to the Top” initiative that provides grants to better-performing schools.
Instead, the cuts that actually will make it into law are far tamer, including cuts to earmarks, unspent census money, leftover federal construction funding, and $2.5 billion from the most recent renewal of highway programs that can’t be spent because of restrictions set by other legislation. Another $3.5 billion comes from unused spending authority from a program providing health care to children of lower-income families.
…conservatives are upset that most conservative policy “riders” added by Republicans were dropped from the legislation in the course of the talks.
The White House rejected GOP attempts to block the EPA’s ability to issue global warming rules and other reversals of environmental regulations. Obama also forced Republicans to drop an effort to cut off Planned Parenthood from federal funding, as well as GOP moves to stop implementation of Obama’s overhauls of health care and Wall Street regulation.
The administration also thwarted a GOP attempt to block new rules governing the Internet, as well as a National Rifle Association-backed attempt to neuter a little-noticed initiative aimed at catching people running guns to Mexican drug lords by having regulators gather information on batch purchases of rifles and shotguns.
Steve Benen: Today is the first day we’ve been able to get a good look at exactly what spending cuts are included in the new budget deal. We’ve been working with the larger, top-line numbers since late last week, but without a sense of what the specific cuts are going to be.
….does this mean the actual budget cuts won’t be quite as brutal as we thought when the deal was struck on Friday night? Actually, yes, that’s pretty much what it means. The AP’s report echoes this point.
..It turns out, a lot of the cuts related to money that wasn’t going to be spent (leftover Census money, for example), eliminating programs that were set to expire, and not repeating expenditures intended to be one-time infusions anyway.
Maybe it’s time to revisit the assumption that the Obama White House got rolled.