Budget work about to hit Congress

Wednesday - 1/26/2011, 10:31am EST

Bob Cusack, Managing Editor, The Hill

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By Suzanne Kubota
Senior Internet Editor
FederalNewsRadio.com

In the State of the Union address, President Obama talked about plans for reducing the federal deficit to include a five-year, non-security freeze on discretionary spending, even while the Office of Management and Budget prepares to release the 2012 budget.

Bob Cusack, managing editor of The Hill, told Federal News Radio "it's going to be interesting now to see where the specifics are. We didn't hear a lot of specifics last night, especially from (House) Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wi.). You know we have major differences here."

For example, said Cusack, the President wants a freeze "and you have Republicans saying in the House that they want to go back to 2008 spending levels or less. Some want to even go back to 2006. Those are major, major cuts that would have to take place, whether it's EPA, or the IRS, the FBI, they would basically have to take roughly in the range of 20 percent cuts."

While the cuts, said Cusack, will be very difficult, "if you're going to do it, you're going to do it now because there is this appetite for reducing the deficit and Republicans believe that they've got a real shot to make a dent in the deficit."

Cusack said compromise will be the key.

So we're going to go either from a freeze or it's going to be cuts. It's going to be somewhere in between. They're going to have to reach a deal. We have this continuing resolution that funds the government that expires on March 4th, we have the whole budget battle for the new fiscal year coming up, we've got raising the nation's debt ceiling which is going to... I think it's going to happen. I don't think there's going to be any kind of government shutdown.

Not to imply, said Cusack, that anything's a slam dunk. He said he expects Republicans to demand some concessions before they take the "politically tough vote" of raising the debt limit.

Whatever happens needs to happen quickly.

"We're already toward the end of January," said Cusack. "House Republicans yesterday said they are going to bring a spending measure before - not the week before, but a couple of weeks before - the March 4th deadline, and hopefully iron out a deal. Deals don't usually get done unless there's a deadline. Now could that deadline be pushed back a week or two as they reach an agreement? Yes. Definitely."