House GOP slates vote on $15B Trump spending cut package

WASHINGTON (AP) — The GOP-controlled House is moving ahead on a White House plan to cut almost $15 billion in leftover spending, scheduling a vote after President Donald Trump took to Twitter to sell the idea.

A spokesman for House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Wednesday that the House will vote Thursday night on the measure, which had appeared to languish after Trump submitted it last month. The measure faces long odds in the Senate despite being immune to a Democratic filibuster.

The legislation would have only a tiny — $1 billion or so — impact on the government’s budget deficit, which is on track to total more than $800 billion this year. Some of the cuts wouldn’t affect the deficit at all since budget scorekeepers don’t give credit for rescinded money that they don’t think would have ever been spent.

For instance, more than $4 billion in cuts to a loan program designed to boost fuel-efficient, advanced-technology vehicles wouldn’t result in fewer loans since the loans are no longer being made.

But rescinding previous leftover funds, such as $7 billion from the popular Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, would take that money off the table so it couldn’t be used to help pay for new appropriations down the road. The recently-passed catchall spending bill used $7 billion in unspent CHIP funding to pay for budget increases elsewhere.

In a statement, the White House urged lawmakers “to return this funding to the Federal Treasury rather than use it as a budgetary gimmick to offset spending elsewhere.”

The pending vote — if successful — would be a vindication of sorts for McCarthy, who He has a driving force behind the package of cuts, which comes after many conservatives complained about a $1.3 trillion catchall spending bill that passed in March. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., hasn’t been an active booster of the plan.

“The President’s rescissions request is a straightforward approach to begin cleaning up a bloated federal budget and respecting hardworking taxpayer dollars,” McCarthy said.

The White House submitted a revised package of cuts Tuesday, removing politically troublesome proposals to cut money to fight Ebola funds and to rebuild watersheds damaged by Superstorm Sandy. The removal of cuts to Sandy aid could shore up support among northeastern Republicans such as Peter King of New York.

“The HISTORIC Rescissions Package we’ve proposed would cut $15,000,000,000 in Wasteful Spending! We are getting our government back on track,” Trump tweeted Tuesday.

But the measure faces long odds in the Senate, where pragmatic-minded Republicans are focusing on trying to get the troubled process for handling annual appropriations back on track on a bipartisan basis. White House budget director Mick Mulvaney heeded warnings to not touch the budget-busting omnibus spending bill, but it’s still unclear whether the closely divided Senate will be able to pass it.