Down to its smallest details, the Republican Study Committee’s spending cut proposal exposes real rifts in the Republican party. While the GOP’s basically fine with slashing arts funding, a lot of the items in that budget — meant to imply liberal profligacy — actually have significant Republican support.
For instance, the RSC plan would slash $150 million in spending on Essential Air Service — a government program, which ensures small and rural communities continue to receive commercial airline service.
Flash back to 2007, and possible Republican presidential candidate, Sen. John Thune (R-SD) spearheaded an effort to restore such service to his constituents. “I am encouraged by the Senate’s action to move this important legislation. Essential Air Service is just that, essential. It is essential to the people it serves and it is essential that the House of Representatives pass this legislation without modification so that we can restore commercial air service for Brookings,” said Thune. “Ensuring access to communities like Brookings strengthens the local economy, provides consumers with choices, and makes the entire commercial airline network more valuable.”
House conservatives also want to scrap all subsidies for mohair production — fabrics made from goat hair . This is an age-old item in the war against pork. But one of its backers is Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), who last year requested a $3 million earmark “to develop a state-of-the-art, multidisciplinary cotton research program for the Southwest cotton production region and a market and policy analysis program for natural fibers, including cotton, wool and mohair. The focus will be on maximizing efficiency for regional and U.S. cotton production, marketing and trade.”
The 2011 appropriations process ultimately blew up over earmarks, so this went nowhere.
The RSC plan would save $76 million by eliminating the Appalachian Regional Commission, a partnership between the federal government and eastern states to encourage economic growth in Appalachia.
Unsurprisingly, many members of Congress have constituents who benefit from this program, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who in 2008 supported expanding the program to include 10 additional counties. Last year, his state of Kentucky was the beneficiary of over $12 million worth of projects from this program.
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at email@example.com.