It's getting so these days it takes a degree in higher order math to wrestle the real deficit impact from all the proposed spending cuts and political spin flying around Congress. The Congressional Budget Office revealed Monday yet another twist of accounting, leaving Senate Democrats with less than previously thought when it comes to deficit reduction when compared with what House Republicans approved.
This time, while Senate Democrats and the White House are touting another $6.5 billion in spending cuts in the midst of their fight with congressional Republicans over how best to reduce the deficit, CBO indicates in a 513-page report to Congress obtained by Fox that nearly $2 billion of that is emergency funding. That is - spending that is not included in the budget and, therefore, does not affect the deficit.
An aide to Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, did not dispute the analysis of his boss' bill but merely pointed out that the goal of the chairman was to cut spending by $51 billion, when the President's current budget, which never passed Congress, is included as the base. But $41 billion of that was never enacted, so experts do not see that as a real cut. Current discretionary spending remains frozen at 2010 levels.
Likewise, Republicans really cut $61 billion and not $100 billion, as they tried to advertise. They, too, sought to use the President's current budget as the base from which they started to cut.
But if you compare apples to apples, the Republicans have cut $61 billion; Democrats have now proposed cutting only $8.7 billion, when the CBO analysis is taken into account. Republicans did not appear to count emergency spending in their $61 billion measure, though it did contain such cuts, as well.
Both measures are likely to be voted on Tuesday afternoon in the Senate, and both are expected to fall well short of the 60 votes needed for passage.
And if the goal in all of this wrangling over short-term federal government funding is actually to reduce the deficit, then CBO says we must use the figure $4.7 billion, not $6.5 billion. If the goal is merely to cut spending, then the Democrats have done so. And if the goal is to drive reporters who cover Congress mad, then - mission accomplished.