After catching heat from rank and file conservative members for not proposing enough spending cuts, Republican leaders want a do-over.
House appropriators have delayed until at least Friday the introduction of new spending legislation, to cut deeper than they’d originally planned.
“After meeting with my subcommittee Chairs, we have determined that the [spending resolution] can and will reach a total of $100 billion in cuts compared to the President’s request immediately — fully meeting the goal outlined in the Republican ‘Pledge to America’ in one fell swoop,” said Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) in a statement to reporters Thursday. “Our intent is to make deep but manageable cuts in nearly every area of government, leaving no stone unturned and allowing no agency or program to be held sacred. I have instructed my committee to include these deeper cuts, and we are continuing to work to complete this critical legislation.”
Rogers is having a little fun with the math here. Cutting $100 billion from amount President Obama requested last year is a lot different than cutting $100 billion from current spending — which is significantly below what the White House wanted.
But it’s still a lot more than originally anticipated. House Budget chairman Paul Ryan set spending limits at about $32 billion below current spending, or about $74 billion below the total spending Obama asked for last year.
That suggests Rogers and the GOP leadership will introduce spending legislation that would, if enacted, cut over $50 billion almost immediately.
A few cautionary notes. First, if these individual cuts go over and beyond what Democrats and establishment Republicans are willing to stomach; second, there will be a somewhat open debate on the legislation; and third, the House could pare them back.
And, of course, there’s the Senate. Last week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said even Ryan’s overall spending limit was unacceptably low. So they’re going to have to contend with a Democratic Senate that won’t support cuts this deep.
At an event with union officials and workers Thursday morning, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) addressed the tensions within the GOP that are causing these hiccups.
“We were told by the majority that this would be on their website this morning,” Pelosi said. “Now because of the disarray in the Republican party, and this is only one manifestation of it, they will be taking another day. I think what they’re finding out is that it’s easier to talk about cutting than it is to actually do it.”
On the one hand, there are the die-hards who are unconvinced of their leadership’s commitment to spending cuts, health care repeal and more. And then there are others, who are nervous about health care over-reaching, without having a positive agenda. Those two poles are hard to balance.
“They said $100 [billion] they came down to $50 now it’s $35,” Pelosi said. “Well the people who like the sound of $100 are demanding more.”
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.