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2013 discretionary spending could reach pre-stimulus levels

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Philip Klein

Federal discretionary spending is on track to return to pre-stimulus levels in 2013 on an inflation-adjusted basis, notes a Senate Republican aide.

Senate Democrats have begrudgingly agreed to a government funding measure that will lock in the automatic spending cuts, or post-sequester spending levels, through September – the end of the 2013 fiscal year.

Currently, the Congressional Budget Office projects that discretionary spending – including emergency spending – will reach $1.213 trillion in 2013. The Senate aide said that after accounting for the sequester cuts, federal discretionary outlays would fall to around $1.180 trillion.

In 2008, the year before the passage of President Obama’s economic stimulus legislation, federal discretionary spending hit $1.135 trillion. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ inflation calculator, that translates into $1.224 in current dollars, which is higher than the 2013 projections.

Based on this, Republicans could make an argument that in a situation of divided government where they only control one chamber of Congress, that they were able to bring spending down.

At the same time, it’s worth offering some context. Between 2000 and 2008 (the year before President Bush took office to his final full fiscal year), discretionary spending shot up 85 percent. In 2000, discretionary spending was $615 billion, which would be $829 billion in inflation-adjusted terms.

Also, none of this accounts for mandatory spending, which stood at $1.78 trillion in 2008 ($1.92 trillion in inflation-adjusted terms), but is projected to grow to $2.11 trillion in 2013.

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Author:

Philip Klein

Commentary Editor
The Washington Examiner