One reason the White House is willing to entertain holding spending essentially flat has to do with politics. Given that Republicans control the House, getting an increase in funding for discretionary programs outside the military would have been nearly impossible. Congress would not have approved increases through the appropriations process, the normal way in which Congress allocates money to government programs and agencies.
Republicans have repeatedly said that they will not accept a deal unless it results in the government spending less money than it did in the last fiscal year. They have said that simply freezing spending at current levels, as the White House has proposed, does not enact the kind of meaningful cuts many in their party have long called for.
But Republican negotiators have shown some flexibility around how long they would require those spending caps to last. House G.O.P. leaders are now looking to set spending caps for six years, rather than 10. Still, that is longer than the White House is proposing, with Democrats offering to cap spending for two years.
“The numbers are foundational here,” Representative Garret Graves, Republican of Louisiana and one of Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s lead negotiators, said on Sunday. “The speaker has been very clear: A red line is spending less money and unless and until we’re there, the rest of it is really irrelevant.”
The approach is evoking debt limit déjà vu.
If spending caps sound familiar, that is because they were employed during the last big debt limit fight in 2011.