GOP cuts deep as right revolts

by
February 10, 2011

By DAVID ROGERS, Politico

Faced with a revolt on the right, House Republicans scrambled Wednesday to adjust their budget strategy and come up with tens of billions of dollars in additional savings — including a possible across-the-board cut — to appease tea party supporters.

The day began with the once-proud House Appropriations Committee previewing what it saw as an unprecedented package of more than $40 billion in reductions from current domestic and foreign aid funding. But even as the numbers were released, conservatives at a morning caucus demanded twice the reductions. And by late in the day, the committee’s cardinals were closeted away in the Capitol, fending off talk of across-the-board cuts but also admitting they will most likely need days more to come up with an alternative.

More than any single event in the new Congress, the standoff captured what’s become a rhetorical nightmare for GOP leaders — having pledged to cut $100 billion from spending this year but then single-mindedly targeting just one narrow segment of the budget covering domestic programs and foreign aid.

The whole intellectual framework for the $100 billion pledge was based on rolling back these same programs to the 2008 appropriations levels set in the last year of the Bush administration. Two bites were always expected to be needed, and the $40 billion in reductions represents a major down payment. But that 2008 marker is largely ignored now in the devotion to $100 billion, a number that has taken on a currency of its own and seems to defy any effort by the leadership to rationalize a lesser figure.

Republican freshmen, having just returned from their recent recess at home, complained at the morning meeting of being embarrassed now after telling their constituents that the $100 billion target would be met.

“The first rule of politics is when you are explaining, you are losing,” Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) told POLITICO. And as a new member of the Appropriations Committee, Flake had warned the leadership Tuesday that $40 billion would not be enough. “After we spent a significant portion of the conference trying to explain why it really is closer to $100 billion than it is, we’ve lost.”

“Right now, there are a lot of moving parts,” said a Republican leadership aide. “We’re actively working to bring the conference together with a unified strategy,” the aide said, indicating $100 billion would be the target.

The Republican disarray is small comfort for Democrats, given the number of prized initiatives at risk.

To read more, visit: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0211/49156.html#ixzz1DYZ0ovkc

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