The Washington Times reports today that the duel of spending reduction bills may be won by Harry Reid. The CBO scored Reid’s proposal better than John Boehner’s on actual reductions in spending, although neither takes a machete to the budget. In fact, the difference is almost indistinguishable:
The Congressional Budget Office said the plan by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid would raise the government’s borrowing limit by $2.7 trillion, and cut $2.2 trillion from future spending, chiefly by limiting the amount of money spent on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. …
The CBO said the Senate bill’s discretionary spending cuts would result in $840 billion in lower authorized spending, and $750 billion in actual lower outlays over the next decade. The Senate bill also capped spending on the two wars at $450 billion over the next decade, which would mean spending authority is $1.2 trillion lower, and actual outlays would be $1 trillion lower.
Reid’s advertising his proposal as authorizing $2.2 trillion in cuts for a $2.7 trillion debt-ceiling increase, but most of those cuts would happen anyway. Reid counts dollars spent on the war at current rates as part of the savings when the drawdowns occur, savings that are already in place. Instead, his bill cuts in 10 years roughly half of the annual budget deficit, averaging $75 billion a year, which is roughly nineteen days of borrowing at current deficit rates.
That’s an improvement over Boehner’s bill, but not by much. Boehner would save $710 billion over the next decade, averaging $71 billion a year, which accounts for 17.3 days of borrowing at the current rate of deficit spending. That’s more of a distinction without a difference. Boehner’s bill would only authorize a $900 billion hike in the debt limit, however, which would force a new round of cuts before next year’s election. Unlike Reid’s proposal, Boehner assumes that the savings in war funding have already taken place.
Boehner promised to go back and rewrite the House bill to get more savings out of it. Given these figures, that shouldn’t be a terribly difficult task. However, at this point, it looks like the two chambers are close enough in figures and approaches to pass their bills and get a conference committee to deal with the differences, which is probably what will happen by the end of the week.