White House Officials Willing to Cut $6 Billion More in Budget Negotiations with Republicans, Claim They’re “Meeting Them Half Way”

Mar 3, 2011 6:28pm

White House officials said today that in their budget negotiations with GOP congressional leaders, they’re willing to cut an additional $6 billion more from the president’s proposed – but never enacted FY2011 budget – and the continued to insist this represents in totality “meeting them halfway” in cuts.

In addition to $44 billion in cuts National Economic Council director Gene Sperling argued that the White House has already agreed to  – more on that in a second — Sperling said today that White House officials “are also prepared to put out specifics that will move another over $6 billion closer so that we will have met them halfway, essentially split the difference between the president's request” and the House Republicans’ budget.

A Democrat tells ABC News that the potential cuts include items included in the House Republicans’ budget such as cutting $224 million from the Forest Service, $100 million from the Millennium Challenge Corporation, $90 million from the CBP Automation Modernization, $500 million from rescinded unobligated WIC balances. Some new ideas include $280 million from the ARC Tunnel Cancellation, $277 million VA Information Technology, and $100 million from Embassy security, construction, and maintenance.

“We feel we’ve come half way,” said White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer.

The White House gets to this by using as the baseline for cuts the president’s never-enacted FY2011 budget, which was for $1.1283 trillion.

The House Republicans’ budget, H.R. 1, was $1.026 trillion, hence the difference is $102.3 billion.

The president’s FY2011 budget never was enacted, so a series of temporary spending bills have passed instead. The original temporary spending bill represented in totality $40.8 billion less in spending that the president’s original proposal. The one the president signed into law yesterday – funding the government until March 18 – represents another $4 billion in cuts.

Therefore, the White House argues the president has already essentially agreed to $44.8 billion in spending cuts from his original proposal. Add the current $6.5 billion in new cuts proposed today and voila! – roughly half of $100 billion.

Republicans argue that President Obama’s original budget is a nonsensical baseline from which to begin since it was never enacted.

What you have to do, Republicans say, is start from the current level of spending as represented in the original Continuing Resolution.  

This is why, House Republicans say, they only claimed to have cut spending by $61 billion, not $100 billion. They say to do otherwise is taking credit for $44 billion in cuts the White House never actually agreed to in any serious negotiation.

“I understand that maybe some people who originally decided to use that math may not want to use that anymore,” Pfeiffer said today. “There are innumerable quotes, many of them in stories in papers that you guys did on that day,…with Republican leadership saying that they cut $100 billion on that day. By that measure we have come half way.”

“Their thing hasn’t passed into law either, right?” said Sperling “This is the president of the United States has put forward a request that’s his ideal budget that he put forward. They put forward their ideal proposal. Something they could pass in the House, but and that’s – there’s a $102.3 billion difference there. I don’t know why when you’re covering any type of negotiation that it’s not highly relevant to know where the president’s proposal was, where their proposal was, and then, and then if there’s movement – to what degree is that splitting the difference or moving towards one side or the other. So I think it’s a totally legitimate important thing  covering the negotiation.”

Pfeiffer added that “what is clear is that we are at the beginning of the process discussing this. They are not going to get everything they want. We’re not going to get everything we want.  And we’re going to discuss how we’re going to get there. Much like the tax cut deal.”

-Jake Tapper

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