Conservatives Angle for Huge Budget Cuts [Update]

By
Representative Paul D. Ryan
Representative Paul D. Ryan Photo: Getty Images

A bloc of conservative Republicans are putting the pressure on to cut more than $2.5 trillion over the next ten years — and they want $100 billion in cuts to happen immediately. The proposed cuts would hit dozens of programs, but wouldn't touch Medicare, Social Security, or military spending. Education, domestic security, transportation, law enforcement, and medical research would be some of the programs that would be hardest hit.

The Republican Study Group, a conservative bloc whose members make up about two-thirds of the GOP caucus, says the country's $14 trillion debt justifies the cuts, which are highly unlikely to pass the Democrat-controlled Senate or survive an Obama veto. That won't stop conservatives from trying. They're recommending a 15 percent cut to the federal workforce and freezing federal salaries for five years. Another $330 million in cuts would hit Amtrak, foreign aid, and even the Washington subway system.

If you're wondering how the study group got to $2.5 trillion without touching entitlements, well, it didn't. Talking Points Memo reports that $2.3 trillion of the total "relies principally on an aspirational spending cap — specifically, limiting non-defense appropriations totals to their 2006 levels without adjusting for inflation. In other words, it punts the question of what to cut to future Congresses."

Other budget items that would be eliminated under the proposal: the National Endowment for the Arts and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, mohair subsidies, and all federal subsidies to the states (some of which, by the way, are already considering bankruptcy). Read the entire list.

The proposal puts pressure on House Speaker John Boehner, who "prais[ed] the study committee’s efforts without backing its plan," the Times reported. Even some of the GOP's biggest deficit hawks are wondering if the proposed conservative cuts are realistic. Budget Committee chairman Representative Paul D. Ryan (R-Wisconsin) believes that Congress should aim to cut between $60 to $80 billion. TPM reported that "the problem, as Boehner and Ryan have explained, is that they won't even get a whack at the budget until March, when the government's current spending authority expires. By then it will only be six months until the end of the fiscal year in September, and they're having a hard time squeezing a year's worth of promised cuts through a half-year window."

But conservative House newcomer Mick Mulvaney from South Carolina was nonplussed. “Anybody who is up to speed on budget issues should be scared to death by what’s happening with the debt and the deficit in this country," he said. "If you’re not losing sleep over it, then you’re simply not paying attention.”

Conservative Republican Study Committee Outlines $2.5 Trillion In Spending Cuts [TPM DC]
Conservatives Press Republican Leaders for Even Bigger Budget Cuts [NYT]
Conservatives lay out $2.5 trillion in cuts
[Politico]

This post has been updated with additional information.