Last fall, the Republicans' "Pledge to America" included a promise that, if elected, the GOP would work to cut $100 billion from the federal budget in 2011. But as Speaker John Boehner accepted the House gavel Wednesday, rumors were already flying around Washington that the GOP was backing away from the spending cuts pledge.
So, is there any truth to the rumors?
According to The Hill, Republicans are still planning to make "significant cuts" in the federal budget, but are downplaying their $100 billion pledge. GOP aides say the GOP will work to return non-security discretionary spending to 2008 levels, but their pledge to reduce the budget by $100 billion will not apply to the budget being drawn up for the second half of fiscal 2011:
Democrats never passed a budget resolution last year and were only able to pass a funding measure that lasts until March 4.
House Republicans promised to cut the budget by at least $100 billion in their “Pledge to America,” published in September. The pledge was intended to signal to voters what House Republicans would do if they won a majority in Congress.
A spokesman for the House Budget Committee said the GOP remains committed to the pledge, but that a different benchmark for making cuts will have to be used since Democrats did not approve a budget.
“Last year, House Republicans pledged to bring non-security discretionary spending back to 2008 levels. We estimated savings at that time relative to President Obama’s proposed fiscal blueprint due to the fact that Democrats in Congress offered no budget with which to compare. House Republicans remain committed to fulfilling their pledge; this has not changed,” House Budget Committee majority spokesman Conor Sweeney said.
“Unfortunately, Democrats refused to take action and oversaw an unprecedented breakdown in the budget process, with stopgap spending bills that provide a different benchmark than President Obama's initial fiscal plan. House Republicans will continue to work to reduce spending for the final six months of this fiscal year — bringing non-security discretionary spending back to pre-stimulus, pre-bailout levels — yielding taxpayers significant savings and starting a new era of cost-cutting in Washington,” he added.
When pressed on the GOP's budget plans, Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., assured Fox News' Martha MacCallum the GOP would reduce spending. "Republicans are going to start from literally day one to change the culture in Washington, D.C. from a culture of spending to a culture of cutting," he said, noting that the GOP is looking to replace Democrats' "PayGo" rules with their own "CutGo" plans.
Additionally, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., the new House Budget Committee chair, told NBC's "Today" show Wednesday that cuts are coming.
“I can't tell you by what amount ... but it will all be coming down,” he said.
The Daily Caller published a piece explaining why the GOP is backing down from the $100 billion cut mark. The piece quotes Rep. Paul Ryan explaining that because the budget year has already started, Republicans have less time to cut:
Republicans said the $100 billion figure applied in September but is smaller now because the budget year started in October, and so cutting the current budget to 2008 levels now is doing so with a less than whole piece of the budget pie, since three months of spending is already out the door.
“We are halfway through the fiscal year right now. So the problem is half the spending cats are already out of the bag, and that is why that number has become compromised,” Ryan said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
“We’re still going to bring spending down to the level that we said we would bring spending at,” Ryan said. “But the savings you achieve from doing so halfway through the fiscal year isn’t as great as it was when we were talking about this a year ago.”
Still, the piece does point out that Republicans would have known this going in, and wonders why the GOP did nothing earlier to try and stifle the $100 billion figure.
Renee Ellmers (R-NC) replied that it's not the figure that matters, it's the philosophy:
“I don’t want to downplay what we’re looking at with numbers and amounts,” Ellmers said. “What I can say is we are very committed to doing something. It’s the only way we’re going to turn things around.”
Ellmers added: “I really hate when we put numbers on things, because then it seems like if didn’t achieve it you hadn’t met your goal. The idea here, I believe, is to cut spending.”