In conjunction with a proposal to leave the Bush tax cuts in place for two additional years, Republican House Minority Leader John Boehner also called for reducing non-security discretionary spending to 2008 levels. Unfortunately, this category represents a relatively small portion of the overall federal budget, and would only be about $100 billion less than what the president wants to spend.
Although $100 billion is a lot of money, it’s puny in comparison to the nearly $4 trillion the government will spend next year. As the Washington Times notes, Boehner’s proposal ignores the biggest items in the federal budget:
Still, Mr. Boehner would leave a lot of spending - entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare, as well as defense, homeland security and veterans funding - untouched, which means Congress would have the near-impossible task of squeezing $100 billion in savings out of the rest of the budget.
Under the president’s budget proposal, non-security discretionary spending next year would be $530 billion. What programs would Boehner cut to shave $100 billion off that figure? He doesn’t say, and the omission probably isn’t an accident.
Continuing weakness in the economy is increasing the chances that minority leader Boehner could become Speaker Boehner after the November congressional elections. By producing a vague “plan” to cut a relatively small amount of spending while avoiding the more politically volatile issues of entitlements and defense, Boehner is signaling that he’s apparently content to ride to victory in the fall on the back of an unpopular president.
Perhaps Boehner secretly intends to tackle entitlements and defense spending as part of a serious effort to downsize the federal government once he’s Speaker. That would be a more comforting thought if congressional Republicans didn’t have a well-earned reputation for being the other party of big government. Hopefully, Boehner and his aides are busy formulating a specific plan of major cuts to pursue next year.