The Cable

The Cable goes inside the foreign policy machine, from Foggy Bottom to Turtle Bay, the White House to Embassy Row.

White House to Congress: Don’t cut any more than necessary

The White House laid out a detailed list of programs that it does not want Congress to cut, and threatened to veto any spending bills that slashed investment to programs it favors. "If the President is presented with a bill that undermines critical domestic priorities or national security through funding levels or language restrictions, contains ...

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The White House laid out a detailed list of programs that it does not want Congress to cut, and threatened to veto any spending bills that slashed investment to programs it favors.

"If the President is presented with a bill that undermines critical domestic priorities or national security through funding levels or language restrictions, contains earmarks, or fails to make the tough choices to cut where needed while maintaining what we need to spur long-term job creation and win the future, the President will veto the bill," Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Jack Lew wrote in an Oct. 19 letter to the leaders of the appropriations committees, obtained by The Cable.

Lew wrote that Congress should not cut discretionary spending more than required by the deal struck to raise the debt ceiling, as enshrined in the Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011, which requires a $7 billion reduction in discretionary spending compared to fiscal 2011 levels.

The White House laid out a detailed list of programs that it does not want Congress to cut, and threatened to veto any spending bills that slashed investment to programs it favors.

"If the President is presented with a bill that undermines critical domestic priorities or national security through funding levels or language restrictions, contains earmarks, or fails to make the tough choices to cut where needed while maintaining what we need to spur long-term job creation and win the future, the President will veto the bill," Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Jack Lew wrote in an Oct. 19 letter to the leaders of the appropriations committees, obtained by The Cable.

Lew wrote that Congress should not cut discretionary spending more than required by the deal struck to raise the debt ceiling, as enshrined in the Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011, which requires a $7 billion reduction in discretionary spending compared to fiscal 2011 levels.

"The nation needs to do more to reduce the deficit, and the President has offered a detailed blueprint for more than $3 trillion in additional deficit reduction, but disregarding the BCA agreement and cutting already-tight discretionary program levels even further would be a serious mistake," Lew said.

He then laid out a long list of programs the White House doesn’t want cut, or wants funded to the levels suggested by the Democratic-controlled Senate rather than the GOP-controlled House. For example, Lew said Congress should support full funding for the Affordable Care Act (AKA: Obamacare) and fund the Race to the Top educational program and Pell Grants at the Senate’s proposed levels.

Lew also called on Congress to support implementation of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, the Food Safety Modernization Act, and to fully fund nutrition programs for children. The Environmental Protection Agency should be funded at least to fiscal 2011 levels, he wrote.

The White House also wants Congress to know that it "strongly opposes ideological and political provisions in these bills." It defines those as any provisions that would restrict implementation of the White House’s legislative successes, undermine health or environmental issues, or "abandon settled approaches to divisive social issues."

On national security, Lew wrote that the White House supports the Senate’s version of the State and Foreign ops appropriations bill, which is about $5 billion higher than the House’s version. The White House also supports the Senate’s proposal for defense funding, which amounts to a freeze in the defense budget this year.

"The President believes that civilian and military power are inextricably linked, and that effective deployment of tools in a coordinated and flexible way is fundamental to meeting the whole of our national security priorities," wrote Lew. "The budget, therefore, must build military strength and smart civilian security programs, domestically and around the world."

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin

More from Foreign Policy

The Taliban delegation leaves the hotel after meeting with representatives of Russia, China, the United States, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Qatar in Moscow on March 19.

China and the Taliban Begin Their Romance

Beijing has its eyes set on using Afghanistan as a strategic corridor once U.S. troops are out of the way.

An Afghan security member pours gasoline over a pile of seized drugs and alcoholic drinks

The Taliban Are Breaking Bad

Meth is even more profitable than heroin—and is turbocharging the insurgency.

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya addresses the U.N. Security Council from her office in Vilnius, Lithuania, on Sept. 4, 2020.

Belarus’s Unlikely New Leader

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya didn’t set out to challenge a brutal dictatorship.

Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid

What the Taliban Takeover Means for India

Kabul’s swift collapse leaves New Delhi with significant security concerns.