House and Senate leaders are caught in a debate over real and phantom discretionary spending cuts. Senate leaders have proposed freezing 2011 discretionary spending at 2010 levels. Because this rejects the President’s proposed $39 billion increase, they are calling their yet-to-be-released proposal a $39 billion cut—essentially, claiming credits for “cuts” against a spending level that was never enacted in the first place.

By contrast, the House-passed bill not only rejected the President’s proposed $39 billion hike but actually $61 billion cut off the 2010 level. Thus, only the House bill reduces spending below the 2010 level.

House v. Senate Proposal

  • Regular discretionary spending in 2010 totaled $1,089 billion.
  • President Obama proposed a 2011 level of $1,128 billion—$39 billion more than in 2010.
  • Senate leaders have proposed funding discretionary spending at the 2010 level of $1,089 billion—essentially rejecting the President’s $39 billion increase. They now claim this as a “spending cut.”
  • The House-passed bill not only refused President Obama’s proposed $39 billion increase; it cut an additional $61 billion in discretionary spending, down to $1,028 billion.
  • In short, the Senate proposal contains no cuts relative to 2010 levels, while the House plan cut $61 billion from 2010 levels.

Does the House Get Back to 2008 Levels?

  • Originally, the House had proposed beginning with the President’s 2011 proposal of $478 billion in non-security discretionary spending and then cutting $100 billion, down to $378 billion—which was also the 2008 level.
  • However, the House did pass $81 billion in cuts off the President’s non-security proposal (the other $19 billion came out of security spending), so non-security discretionary spending was not brought all the way down to 2008 levels.