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RELEASE: 4 Ways Austerity Demands Have Reached New Extremes

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Contact: Katie Peters
Phone: 202.741.6285
Email: kpeters@americanprogress.org

Washington, D.C. — In an effort to avoid a government shutdown, Senate Democrats have accepted spending levels equivalent to previous House Republican budgets, yet House Republican leaders are now insisting on new, deeper spending cuts in exchange for preventing a government shutdown, according to a new issue brief released today by the Center for American Progress.

“Congress has already severely cut economic investments, public safety, and protections for low-income Americans. The budget deficit is falling, yet House Republicans are demanding yet another round of even deeper spending cuts in exchange for preventing a government shutdown,” said Harry Stein, author of the brief and Associate Director of Fiscal Policy at the Center for American Progress

House Republicans claim that their demands for more austerity are a response to exploding budget deficits, but in fact, the federal budget deficit is shrinking, not growing, due in part to massive spending cuts that Congress has already enacted. Those spending cuts were so large that Senate Democrats now accept spending levels equivalent to previous House Republican budget proposals. Yet House Republican leaders still insist on new spending cuts in exchange for preventing a government shutdown on October 1.

The issue brief released today details four ways the House Republicans’ demands for austerity have reached new extremes, including:

  1. This year’s Ryan budget cuts spending much more than past Ryan budgets. The fiscal year 2014 Senate Democratic budget calls for spending levels similar to previous Ryan budgets for fiscal years 2012 and 2013. The only reason there is a disagreement over spending levels for fiscal year 2014 is that the new Ryan budget is more extreme than previous Ryan budgets.
  2. The House previously rejected spending levels similar to this year’s Ryan budget. The new Ryan budget calls for spending levels similar to last year’s ultra-conservative Republican Study Committee budget. Last year, more than 100 Republicans voted against the Republican Study Committee budget when it was rejected on the House floor, and the House Appropriations Committee rejected the Republican Study Committee budget’s spending level on a 4-to-44 vote.
  3. Congress has already enacted massive spending cuts. Congress has already cut an enormous amount of discretionary spending—$1.5 trillion over 10 years, not including sequestration. In fact, we have already cut so much discretionary spending that we have actually exceeded the goal repeatedly articulated by the Republican Study Committee, which is to reduce total discretionary spending below 2008 levels.
  4. New austerity forces House appropriations to cut programs they previously supported. The new Ryan budget requires deep cuts to programs that House Republicans previously supported. For example, the House Appropriations Committee recommended cutting more than $1 billion from Community Development Block Grants. Last year, the same committee supported even more money for CDBG than President Obama recommended.

Last year, the House of Representatives demonstrated an understanding that austerity could go too far when it rejected the extreme Republican Study Committee budget. Senate Democrats now accept spending levels in line with previous Ryan budgets, and the federal budget is stable over the medium term. Despite all that, House Republican leaders are demanding a new round of discretionary spending cuts. Hopefully, the House will relent on this extreme demand and agree to spending levels similar to those in past Ryan budgets, as it is becoming clear that even conservatives cannot support the specific cuts demanded by the new Ryan budget. If not, we can expect another round of dangerous political brinksmanship and the specter of a government shutdown.

Read the issue brief: 4 Ways the Austerity Demands Have Reached New Extremes by Harry Stein

Related resources from CAP:

To speak with an expert on this topic, contact Katie Peters at kpeters@americanprogress.org or 202.741.6285.

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