Much has been written about the politics of President Obama’s call for a partial spending freeze. (In short, they’re hard to figure out: The freeze annoys liberals, it’s too small to placate conservatives, and because it exempts defense spending, it hasn’t earned many plaudits from real fiscal hawks.)
Less has been written about the policy side, partly because the details of the freeze won’t be public until Obama releases his budget on Monday. But the sense I get — and I alluded to this in a quick State of the Union story last night — is that the freeze will really have a minimal impact on federal employees, both on their priorities and their pay.
OMB deputy director Rob Nabors held a conference call with reporters a little while ago to talk about President Obama’s proposed three-year “non-security discretionary spending freeze.”
As we mention over on the homepage, the freeze only affects a fraction of the federal budget: $447 billion, or about 17 percent of total spending. Nabors clarified that it exempts Defense, Homeland Security, the VA, and the entire State/international affairs section of the federal budget. He also emphasized that the cuts aren’t uniform.
It’s not an across-the-board cut. We have honored the president’s commitment and gone line-by-line through the budget trying to find those programs that aren’t working, aren’t achieving their mission.
So some agencies in that “non-security discretionary” category will see their budgets continue to increase. Education, for example, probably will see some gains.
The flip side is that other agencies could actually see their budgets shrink. That’s simple math: If the $447 billion figure is fixed, and some agencies get more money, others have to receive less. We won’t know for sure until Monday, though, when the administration’s budget request is released. (And of course this all assumes Congress agrees to a freeze, which it hasn’t yet…)