Congressional leaders and the White House averted a government shutdown Friday evening by agreeing to cut almost $40 billion in federal spending on non-entitlement and non-defense projects from current levels. This was a rare move for Congress, which rarely reduces spending, and evidence that the new Republican majority in the House in 2010 has changed the focal point of political debate on Capitol Hill.
The Senate and House will have to pass a budget agreement by Friday to once again avoid a government shutdown.
The debate over the level of cuts — and which programs and agencies would be targeted — is what nearly forced a shutdown. The NewsHour took a sample of some of the programs and departments and how they fared:
U.S. Census: $6.2 billion cut
The biggest single program cut in the budget deal is a gimmick — a cut to funding slated to be erased anyway after the completion of the U.S. Census. Other cuts in the budget deal also include those made only on paper — for example, Congress saved $560 million from the Department of Homeland Security in the deal by removing money that was not needed. Old earmarks meant for the Department of Transportation that were officially eliminated, to account for $630 million in savings.
Women, Infants and Children: $504 million cut from current funding, to $6.7 billion
Women, Infants and Children, otherwise known as WIC, is a program that provides food for poor women and children up to the age of five. It also provides information on healthy foods and referrals for medical care, according to the program’s Web site.
The WIC program gave out about $7 billion in food grants to states in 2010.
Environmental Protection Agency: $ 1.6 billion cut, a 16 percent decrease
The EPA is a federal agency charged with protecting the environment as well as human health. The 15 percent cut is bigger than the 11 percent cut President Obama recommended in his latest budget. Democrats fought to preserve the EPA’s legal ability to regulate greenhouse gases, which some Republicans wanted to strip from the bill.
Department of Defense: $5 billion increase, to $513 billion
While most departments saw decreases in funding, the Defense Department gets a $5 billion boost from the budget deal. The $513 billion does not include another $157.8 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which was also included in the bill.
Corporation for Public Broadcasting – $80 million cut, to $445 million
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting provides funding for public media organizations, including NPR and PBS. Because CPB is funded by two-year advanced appropriations, its money for fiscal year 2011 and 2012 is already set; this cut will apply to 2013 funding levels. This $80 million cut is also a bit of a gimmick — President Obama had already factored it into his budget request. CPB was targeted for elimination by Republicans, but survived the final cut.
What wasn’t cut?
Even if the House and Senate pass this budget deal, it will do little to change the estimated $1.5 trillion deficit for the year, and the mounting total debt, now about $14 trillion.
The big debate over how to curb that deficit and deal with long-term debt, due in large part to health care costs from Medicare, is looming before Congress. Congress and the White House will soon have a much larger debate over how to fund the government in fiscal year 2012, and under what terms the government would extend its ability to borrow money once the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling is reached.
Senate Democrats point out that they was able to prevent Republicans from cutting certain programs that are important to President Obama and Congressional Democrats, including funding for Title X, which funds Planned Parenthood. Democrats were also able to maintain funding for the Affordable Care Act and increase funding to the Security and Exchange Commission, Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and Race to the Top, President Obama’s education initiative.
Correction: an earlier version of this post incorrectly reported the amount CPB would receive