House Republicans made a lot of noise in their pre-election “Pledge to America” regarding exactly how much government spending they were going to cut. At the document’s unveling, incoming Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) confidently asserted “we can save $100 billion dollars a year. That’s $1 trillion over the next ten years.”
And Boehner was far from the only one laying out $100 billion in non-defense discretionary spending cuts as the benchmark. Incoming House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) said that the GOP’s goal was to cut “a good $100 billion.” Rep. Kevin McCarthy (of “Young Gun” fame) reiterated the promise, saying, “We’re saying you go through, go back to pre-stimulus bailout numbers. We can live with that.” “We’ve got to roll back there. That will save $100 billion in the first year,” agreed Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN).
Just yesterday, in fact, incoming Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) repeated that the GOP is aiming for $100 billion in cuts. However, according to the New York Times, this promise was not a promise in the literal sense:
Now aides say that the $100 billion figure was hypothetical, and that the objective is to get annual spending for programs other than those for the military, veterans and domestic security back to the levels of 2008, before Democrats approved stimulus spending to end the recession.
“I think they woke up to the reality that this will have a direct negative impact on people’s lives,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), who will be the ranking member on the House Budget Committee. “You know, it’s easy to talk about these things in the abstract. It’s another thing when you start taking away people’s college loans and Pell Grants or cutting early education programs.”
Indeed, since the contractionary effects of $100 billion in spending cuts, and the layoffs that would follow, would do real damage to the economy, the fact that the GOP is backing away from its commitment is a good thing. But it’s just the latest in a flurry of budget promises that the GOP has broken, before it even officially came into power:
— After campaigning for more transparency and fewer backroom deals, House Republicans unveiled a rule allowing Ryan to implement spending levels without ever having them voted upon.
— After campaigning heavily against the deficit and government spending, the first bill that House Republicans intend to hold a vote on — repeal of the Affordable Care Act — would increase the deficit.
— Another rule that the House GOP proposed would allow lawmakers to reallocate spending cuts, rather than use them to pay down the deficit. Some conservative lawmakers have rebelled, calling this “Washington-style gimmicks” to increase spending.
This morning, Ryan said on NBC’s Today Show that, while spending will be reduced, he doesn’t know by how much. “I can’t tell you by what amount…but it will all be coming down,” he said.