The Hill: Senate Republicans back plan to cap budget spending

Posted on July 13, 2010

Senate Appropriations Committee Republicans requested on Tuesday a three-year spending freeze setting non-defense discretionary spending at $1.108 trillion for fiscal 2011, not including war or emergency spending. 

That amount is $16.2 billion less than requested by President Obama for fiscal 2011, $41 billion less for fiscal 2012 and $33.1 billion less in 2013 for the plan authored by Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.).

“I think that’s a terrific idea — it’s the right thing to do to place a cap on growth,” McCaskill told reporters shortly after Republicans announced their plan. “I think if we try to do massive cutting right now we could be dangerously close to a much more serious recession. But capping growth is exactly what we should be doing.”

McCaskill said the provision is only one or two votes away from gaining approval. 

Senate Appropriations ranking member Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and Senate Budget ranking member Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), also a member of the appropriations panel, said they support language in a letter sent Tuesday to Senate Appropriations Democrats. 

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday, “we’ve increased discretionary spending 17 percent since the president came to office. If you look at just the domestic discretionary spending, we’ve increased it 24 percent.” 

“So we’re pleased to announce today that we’re going to recommend a smaller pie, if you will, a smaller discretionary spending budget to our friends in the majority and hope they will join us.” 

Gregg said committee members agreed to back the issue and informed their Republican colleagues during lunch today. The plan also has Democratic support — from possibly up to 18 lawmakers. 

Sessions and McCaskill tried to push through the plan earlier this year but were unsuccessful. 

As Congress moves forward without a budget plan, setting spending limits seemed like a viable option, lawmakers said. 

McCaskill and Sessions offered the amendment in May to the supplemental spending bill for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The provision will need two-thirds support, so 34 senators could vote against the cap and kill it. 

“Since this Democratic Congress has not produced a budget for next year, the first job of the Appropriations Committee is to decide how much to spend,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Republican Conference.

“The Sessions-McCaskill freeze is an important first step to rein in federal spending. The next step should be getting entitlement spending under control.”

—This story was first published at 2:56 p.m.