Analysis: What to expect for FY 2011 budgets

Wednesday - 10/20/2010, 10:31am EDT

Bob Cusack, managing editor, The Hill

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By Suzanne Kubota
Senior Internet Editor
FederalNewsRadio.com

Mid-term elections are less than two weeks away.

Afterwards, according to Bob Cusack, managing editor of The Hill, expect a power shift, at least in part of the Capitol.

"Republicans are going to take back the House and they're going to come close in the Senate, but probably won't get there," Cusack told Federal News Radio.

Cusack noted there are three major issues facing Congress that have been pushed back until after the elections: the Bush tax cuts, the "don't ask, don't tell" policy at the Pentagon, and number one for most federal agencies, appropriations.

Republicans would like to put off the first two issues until the new congress is sworn in said Cusack, but funding won't wait. "Well they have to pass something, because otherwise the government won't function," either in the form of a big omnibus bill at least a CR.

Expect spending levels to change in the new congress, said Cusack.

If Democrats try to move a massive appropriations bill that Republicans don't like, "especially after the Republicans have the political wind at their back," it's going to be tough to move that bill. Control of the House Appropriations Committee is up in the air with several contenders for chair in a Republican majority, said Cusack, "but certainly the spending levels would be dramatically different under Republicans in both the House and the Senate."

Republicans across the Capitol, according to Cusack, "say that we should go back to the spending levels of the pre-stimulus, pre-bailout. So let's go back to the 2008 spending limits that they had back then and that would save close to a billion dollars."

But the veteran Hill watcher noted that doesn't mean Republicans will hold out for big cuts. Republicans "may not want to have that big price tag of a major appropriations bill when they're controlling Congress, so there may be incentive for them to let the Democrats pass it as long as it's not a major increase in funding so that when they start the new Congress, they wouldn't have to pass such a big bill as one of the first things they do."

For more on the possibility of a trillion dollar omnibus package and why Cusack said "Darrel Issa could be the White House's worst nightmare," listen to the entire interview by clicking on the player at the top of the page.