House Republicans on the Appropriations Committee released a budget plan on Tuesday that would increase sequestration cuts to many agencies while handing more money to the defense side of the ledger.
The cuts would reduce funding for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and other financial agencies by $3 billion, cut NASA’s budget by $928 million over last year, and slash $259 million from the National Science Foundation, which funds scientific research projects. The Securities and Exchange Commission, which acts as watchdog over Wall Street, would receive less than what President Obama has requested, and the Federal Communications Commission and Federal Trade Commission would both see their budgets cut by tens of millions compared to this year.
These agencies have already faced deep budget cuts under sequestration, and the proposal mirrors other House Republican plans that keep sequestration cuts in place and cap spending for agencies and discretionary programs at $967 billion.
Meanwhile, the proposal increases funding for defense and security programs, such as giving the Department of Justice $770 million above the current level under sequestration. The committee has also approved a defense appropriations bill that would increase spending by $28 billion over the current level.
While budget talks are currently stalled, they are expected to pick up again in September ahead of the start of a new fiscal year on October 1. The Appropriations proposal indicates Republicans’ priorities as they head into those talks.
Cuts to the IRS may be fueled by the recent scandal, but they are pound foolish. The agency collected $2.5 trillion in revenues last year at normal capacity. Every dollar invested in enforcement, modernization, and management systems reduces the deficit by $200, and every dollar it spends on audits, liens, and seizing property from tax evasion brings in $10. Furloughing just 1,800 enforcement positions could mean losing $4.5 billion in revenue, yet the agency has announced it will furlough more than 89,000 employees to cope with sequestration.
Cutting funding for scientific research also ends up hurting in the long run. One report found that sequestration’s cuts to research and development will reduce GDP by $203 billion to $860 billion over the next nine years and cost 200,000 jobs this year alone.
While sequestration’s automatic, across-the-board cuts were meant to be equally unpalatable to both sides, since they went into effect in March many Republicans have been doubling down on the cuts. House Republicans are threatening to hold the debt ceiling hostage in order to slash discretionary spending even further and enact Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) budget. Some Republican lawmakers have even expressed their approval of the severe cuts as a way to reduce government spending.