The Spending Bill Must Pass Or Else. Or Else What?
LIANE HANSEN, Host:
And, Andrea, what do you mean that the government is going to run out of money on December 3rd? How does that work, especially the or else part?
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
ANDREA SEABROOK: It's a very strange sort of thing for them to say: we're going to keep giving you money at the current levels, but we're not actually going to tell you what the next year's budget is going to be.
HANSEN: Now, you mentioned spending bills, 12 annual spending bills have been punted on. Can Congress pass all those bills?
SEABROOK: And these Continuing Resolutions go up to a certain date. That's why the December 3rd cutoff is now. I mean, if they were to do nothing, the government would have to shut down, as it did in 1995.
HANSEN: A lot of the incoming Republicans have stressed they intend to cut spending.
HANSEN: Now, what do you expect from them?
SEABROOK: I expect them to talk a lot about cutting spending, come up with a lot of ideas for what could be cut, and maybe pass a lot of spending cuts in January. Now, in this lame-duck session, not going to happen.
HANSEN: The president's debt commission called for major cuts across the board. How does that factor into all of this?
SEABROOK: The draft proposal that came out of the debt commission would make cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, raise the retirement age, and end tax incentives that people really rely on - the mortgage interest deduction from your taxes. These are among the most popular programs the government runs. And to cut them, to end them would be just politically unbelievable.
HANSEN: Hmm. And one thing we haven't talked about: The Bush-era tax cuts; they're about to expire.
SEABROOK: And that's really the closest standoff that everybody is watching. Obama wants to extend the tax cuts at lower rates for middle and lower income earners. The Republicans would like to extend them for middle and lower income earners and the wealthy - people in the highest tax brackets. That, of course, would blow another huge hole in the deficit and in our budget. And so there are a lot of questions here about how they figure that one out.
HANSEN: NPR congressional correspondent Andrea Seabrook. Andrea, thanks a lot.
SEABROOK: My pleasure.
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