When he’s not being disingenuous, he’s being utterly dishonest. President Obama told reporters at a press conference Tuesday that House Republicans and Senate Democrats, in talks over a long-term spending compromise, have been negotiating off of the same number of cuts — “$73 billion” — the figure initially proposed by House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) in early February.
The fact that the president (and the vice president) insist on saying “$73 billion” — when even Senate Democrats have settled on $33 billion — may be a telling sign that the spending debate has shifted dramatically in the GOP’s favor (since when do presidents misleadingly claim to have cut spending by way more than they actually have?). But that doesn’t make Obama’s claim any less bunk.
Obama presumably arrives at the $73 billion figure by taking the $10 billion worth of cuts that have already been enacted in two short-term spending resolutions and adding that to the alleged offer of $23 billion in additional cuts that both sides have “agreed” to (Senate Democrats lump these two together to get $33 billion). Then the president tacks on an extra $40 billion. Why? Because that’s how much money we “saved” when Congress failed to enact Obama’s own budget for 2011 (the reason we are in this CR mess to begin with). So technically, if Senate Democrats were to claim $73 billion in cuts, they might have some tenuous purchase there. But for Obama himself to argue that the White House is offering “cuts” that include “savings” that would not have occurred had Congress enacted the spending hikes that he requested is, well, stunningly predictable.
That’s not all, because Republican leaders have repeatedly disputed the notion that any number has been agreed to in the first place. And even going off the correct figure in the alleged offer, $23 billion, Democrats have been trying to pad that number with as much fiscal fluff as they can muster, whether it by drawing from “unobligated balances” or playing around with “ChiMPS” — “Changes in Mandatory Programs” — in an effort to ward off cuts to the discretionary portion of the budget, where even modest reductions in baseline spending can yield considerable savings in the long term. For instance, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R., Ala.), ranking member on the Senate Budget Committee, calculated that the $61 billion in spending cuts included in H.R. 1, the House-passed long-term spending bill, if enacted would save $862 billion over ten years. House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) has loudly criticized these efforts by Democrats, insisting that any deal focus solely on discretionary spending and not include “gimmicks” or “smoke and mirrors.”