Republicans Push Back on "Irrelevant" Reports of Smaller-than-Expected CR Cuts

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
April 14 2011 10:22 AM

Republicans Push Back on "Irrelevant" Reports of Smaller-than-Expected CR Cuts

On Friday night, 28 Republicans voted against the budget deal. Over the weekend and this week, there's been some obvious softness in Republican support for the deal. The reaction is based on facts. On Tuesday, the Washington Post's Philip Rucker discovered that some of the $38.5 billion "cuts" were made possible by accounting gimmicks, like not skimming off of the Crime Victims' Fund. Yesterday, the Associated Press crunched the CBO score of the compromise and found that the cuts only amounted to $353 million in cuts to outlays.

What's the difference between the numbers? There's a difference between budget authority and outlays. The budget authority belongs to Congress; it's the money they appropriate to the government. Outlays are how the government spends the money.

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That's not complicated, but most things that sound bad to voters are pretty uncomplicated. There's been some scrambling today to respond to this. Speaker Boehner took to Twitter to defend the deal ("These are real cuts, though this agreement isn’t perfect.") In a statement, House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rodgers went a little further.

"Different people will manipulate numbers in a million different ways," said Rodgers, who helped announce the deal on Friday, and whose committee worked out the particulars. "But the fact remains that the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office scored this bill as saving nearly $40 billion from last year’s levels - starting us on a path to save hundreds of billions more in the years to come. Twisting irrelevant reports and using invalid comparisons won’t change that fact."

The Appropriations Committee has prepared and provided fact sheets on the difference between the two numbers. But there's still drama here -- it's not like every freshman Republican is on the same page.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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