Chairman Kent Conrad announced the passage of his fiscal 2011 budget resolution by the Senate Budget Committee today on a party line vote of 12 to 10. The document is a nonbinding framework that doesn’t have to be signed into law by the president, but provides a strong indication of the budget road ahead.
Proposals include a $4 billion cut of President Obama’s discretionary spending request, as well as a freeze of non-security discretionary spending for three years.
No surprises here – I’m sure we can all think of a few things that might be cut from the President’s request, and since it does make up over half of discretionary spending, it would be prudent to start with defense, right? Not according to Conrad.
The Chairman’s Mark finds its entire $4 billion cut in the budget for International Affairs, a move that, according to the document, is “strong on national defense” – meaning weak on development and diplomacy?
Also unexplained is a change to the reporting of discretionary spending. Unlike previous years, where spending was broken into Defense and Non-Defense, this resolution breaks spending into Security and Non-Security, providing lines for Defense, International Affairs, Veterans and the Department of Homeland Security. This may seem like a small change, but could be highly misleading.
On one hand, expanded reporting may simply provide a more detailed breakdown of cuts, separating those programs that are exempt from the spending freeze from those that are not. Unfortunately, this simple breakdown also implies that the majority of cuts Senate Democrats plan to propose would come from “security” initiatives. Previously, Conrad’s $4 billion cut would have been listed under Non-Defense.
In reality, the only portion of the President’s fiscal 2011 budget increase for International Affairs that is left intact is funding for what one might call security:
The Chairman’s Mark, therefore, preserves the increase requested due to our current wars, as well as the supplemental funding. Additionally, the Chairman’s Mark also funds an increase of $1.2 billion for our nation’s allies, including Israel, as part of the Middle East peace process… Given our severely constrained fiscal environment, the Chairman’s Mark focuses on those capabilities crucial to our current wars and the Middle East and increases international affairs funding to $54.8 billion for 2011.
As a result, proposed cuts will likely come from programs related to the things I listed above, development and diplomacy.