Congressional Republicans discussing plan giving Obama flexibility on cuts
February 26th, 2013
04:30 PM ET
10 years ago

Congressional Republicans discussing plan giving Obama flexibility on cuts

Washington (CNN) - Days before the automatic spending cuts are due to kick in to federal agencies, congressional Republicans are discussing a plan to give the Obama administration the flexibility - once the cuts go into effect - to let individual executive agencies make decisions about which programs could be cut.

On the House side, Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan is one of the top GOP members leading talks on that approach with rank and file members.

Ryan told CNN his GOP colleagues are receptive to the concept.

"I think people are willing to do that,” he said. “I think the idea to give them more flexibility to distribute the cuts makes a lot of sense and that's something we're generally in favor of doing."

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell also said he also favors the idea.

"I would be happy to give the President more flexibility, and rely on the agency heads to apportion this amount of spending reduction in a different way than the sequester envisions," McConnell told reporters at the Capitol, using the Washington term for the spending cuts.

But he conceded that other Senate Republicans are "suspicious" the administration would use that authority "to punish their political enemies."

House Republican leadership aides caution there are no decisions yet about whether or how they would move a measure to swap out the across-the-board cuts with a plan to give executive branch agencies more discretion. The House could potentially include such a proposal when it considers a government funding bill, known as a "continuing resolution," to keep federal agencies funded through the fall. That vote could happen as early as next week.

Senate Republicans are still deciding what approach they will take to address the forced spending cuts.

But while Republicans may be willing to throw the hot potato of deciding cuts to federal programs back to Obama, the president said Tuesday that the sheer size of the cuts for this year means there's no way to move them around without inflicting budget pain.

"The problem is, when you're cutting $85 billion in seven months - which represents over a 10% cut in the Defense budget in seven months - there's no smart way to do that," Obama said at an event in Newport News, Virginia.

"You don't want to have to choose between – let's see. Do I close funding for the disabled kid or the poor kid? Do I close this Navy shipyard or some other one?" he asked.

The president repeated his call for compromise on a plan to replace the cuts that includes new tax revenue, a non-starter for most congressional Republicans.

Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid panned the idea, calling it a "false concept" and noted even a top Republican, Sen. John McCain, argued it turned over decisions about programs Congress created to the executive branch.

Top House Democrats also flatly rejected the idea of offering flexibility on the cuts Tuesday, citing concerns that it cedes congressional authority to the executive branch.

Rep Jim Clyburn, D-South Carolina, called the idea a "false choice for us to make. We are the elected officials who the public sent here to make some tough decisions and to give direction to the executive branch of the government. This is our job to do and we ought not be passing it on or attempting to pass it on to anybody else."

But beyond the constitutional concern about who ultimately has the power of the purse, a senior House Democratic aide told CNN that Democrats oppose that idea because they don't want to let Republicans "off the hook" for backing the spending cuts that were part of the debt deal from the summer of 2011.

Transferring the final say on those cuts to the president, said the aide, would only allow the GOP to do what they've been working to do for weeks - distance themselves from something economists warn will hurt the economy.

"House Republicans are refusing to take responsibility for yet another one of their manufactured crises and the American people aren't going to fall for yet another gimmick that would still harm our economic recovery," the senior aide said.

Asked about McCain's concerns, Ryan said this isn't a new approach.

"There's a long tradition of reprogramming [in Congress],” Ryan said. “I think there's some authorizing bills that [McCain’s] talking about in the Senate. We're not talking about the same thing."

GOP Rep. Jim Lankford of Oklahoma told CNN Monday that members do not like the across the board cuts, calling the so-called sequester a "sloppy" approach. But Lankford said the challenge is "there isn't a lot of trust for the administration and how they would actually spend the money if you just handed them a checkbook."

Lankford said there are discussions about what kind of oversight or restrictions could be put in place if Congress does allow federal agency heads to make the calls on what to cut.

House Administration Committee Chairwoman Candice Miller, R-Michigan, told CNN she expects the forced spending cuts to go into effect, and does think it makes sense to let the agencies themselves determine which areas could be cut. But Miller echoed Lankford's concerns, saying Republicans are wary the Obama administration would use the budgetary authority to score political points.

Speaking of letting the Pentagon make spending decisions, Miller said, "Hopefully you've got four star generals over there that would not be reacting in a political way."

Filed under: Budget • Deficit • House Republicans • Paul Ryan • President Obama
soundoff (89 Responses)
  1. Mobi

    Either way nothing good is going to happen. We need deep spending cuts. We are all going to have to take a big bite of this Sh!t sandwich. It's not going to be pretty but it will help us out in the end.

    February 26, 2013 09:54 pm at 9:54 pm |
  2. RINO Bill

    Of course this plan will also give a future Republican president the discretion to cut all sorts of "entitlement" spending such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid along with other conservative targets such as the FDA, the EPA, OSHA etc., etc., etc.

    February 26, 2013 10:04 pm at 10:04 pm |
  3. Bottom line we cannot continue to spend without limits

    We or our government can not continue to spend what we do not have, specially in silly entitlement programs where people continue to ger freebies without giving anything. Just look around at how many people get free cells and minutes from the federal government if they qualify for food stamps, we do not need a cell or free minutes to eat. Also, why are so many people taking social security disability??? Just look at the Commonwealth of Puert Rico and notice how many live or are approved to take social security is it that it's so easily approved...and the list continues....

    February 26, 2013 10:04 pm at 10:04 pm |
  4. ALF

    Why Republicans are like that? They do not want to let the president follow his economic strategy, politician strategy,etc, shame on them. It is fair for this country that rich people pay more on taxes. They do not want let the president follow his agenda because they lost and this is the crucial point for them. Republicans are a dinosaurs, they are part of the 1 % of the population "Rich". In first place Republicans did all this mess with the economy so do not lie that is Obama fault. Americans we are not stupid to believe everything republicans say. Let the President do his Job....

    February 26, 2013 10:07 pm at 10:07 pm |
  5. cbr

    Rep Ryan is getting the picture that he American public will not support his budget. He is backtracking now and perhaps we will finally solve these issues and stop all this bickering. If not, Rep. Ryan will be just another member of Congress and he will not become a leaders.

    February 26, 2013 10:36 pm at 10:36 pm |
  6. What!!! What!!!! What!!!!!!

    Don't let the Republicans do this. They voted for the sequester and now have to suffer the consequences. Let them ride the "party of no" ideology out of office.

    February 26, 2013 10:41 pm at 10:41 pm |
  7. J.V.Hodgson

    An absolutely pure magic way of Republicans effectively saying No and/or doing nothing meaningful or offerering any real ideas how to alternatively cut spending up to $1.2bn p.a ( $100bn per month going forward) in a different way to the Budget ACT.
    even my 12 year old kid said wow dad ya think the pres is that stupid he's gonna take that poison pill!!
    Other than that Republicans continue to waffle on about entitlements and other discretionary spending or even social security.... fed up as many bloggers have pointed out many of the areas Republicans want to hit are those things us voters have " paid for" and do not directly touch the budget deficit or debt.
    They continue to say that the ONLY way to reduce debt is by spending cuts and entitlement reform but never say how ( Then accuse Obama of lacking leadership; pot calling kettle black.) when as we all Know tax revenue increase actually helps ( including loophole closures etc) PDQ to reduce the budget deficit and consequently debt growth rate.
    We have lost the real core issue with The Buget Act... a) it was never intended to be implemented and b) not a single economist argues its good for Jobs ( 800K or 2.1m higher unemployment take yor pick.) or the nations GDP current anemic growth, which will slow further.

    February 26, 2013 11:25 pm at 11:25 pm |
  8. Former Republican, now an Independent

    This is a move by the house republicans to try to soften the blow of the harsh cuts they negotiated, and make the public think they are doing them a favor. President Obama should make them live with their radical plan, and let the public see these fanatics for who they really are!

    February 26, 2013 11:34 pm at 11:34 pm |
  9. Drew

    I think Republicans just do not Respect the President

    February 26, 2013 11:56 pm at 11:56 pm |
  10. Orwell seen it before

    Let's get the Republican Grismill grinding. Push it on the president so their hands are not dirty and so they can main their pure as snow demeanor.

    Think of it as training wheels for the Republican Constitutional Amendment for a Balanced Budget, #29, the one after Right to Life-NoChoice Amendment, #28.

    February 27, 2013 12:18 am at 12:18 am |
  11. AK_steve

    The president wanted a balanced approach – cuts and revenue. The GOP wanted one thing cuts! Now that we are getting cuts they plan to shift the blame of its consequences to the president.

    The GOP must get some credit for finding new and creative ways to do nothing.

    February 27, 2013 12:31 am at 12:31 am |
  12. aardman

    What a bunch of gutless, whining, weasels. They demand government cuts but can't come up with them on their own. You want cuts? You spell them out!

    February 27, 2013 12:33 am at 12:33 am |
  13. annie

    Lets face it, a lot of people just want to be mad at the Repbulicans and blame them for anything and everything. So if the cuts turned out to be as bad as Obama is stating while running around the country, that would be the Republicans fault. If Obama would agree to a plan that would prevent job losses, not "starve" the elderly or children, etc., somehow that would also be a bad thing and it would be the fault of the Republicans.

    February 27, 2013 12:39 am at 12:39 am |
  14. Rogue351

    The GOP is doing the exact same thing they have done since this president was elected, NOTHING and getting tax dollars to do nothing. Watch and see, this attitude that falls so close to the tea party attitude it makes the two difficult to tell apart anymore. The only thing that will bring back the GOP is dropping the NRA, the Tea Party and excepting the middle ground just as Christie has. Anything less and the GOP should not count on wining may more elections. Oh and while they are at it they should boot out the KKK, Skin head member of the GOP supporters. Admit the mistakes and move on to help America. If not it will be the former GOP party

    February 27, 2013 01:44 am at 1:44 am |
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