After a fumbling start, the House GOP appears back on track to achieve one of its signature promises from the midterm Pledge to America. The caucus has agreed to a much larger round of budget cuts, spread across the next twelve months, than first proposed — and then withdrawn after a revolt by the Republican freshmen:
House Republicans emerged from an emergency meeting about the budget Thursday night sounding unified around a newfangled stop-gap spending measure that would achieve cuts of $100 billion.
Freshmen, once again, were the driving force that sent the GOP leadership to head back to the drawing board for deeper slashes to spending just a month into their majority.
The newly elected lawmakers wanted what GOP leadership assured: $100 billion in cuts, now. Not prorated over the remainder of the fiscal year. House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said Thursday night in the basement of the Capitol that the cuts Republicans are proposing would equal $170 billion over 12 months, instead of the seven months covered by the CR.
Round One goes to the Tea Party and the freshman class. After the rather anemic proposal to cut $32 billion in the upcoming continuing resolution, the new Republicans on Capitol Hill balked, and activists and conservative commentators questioned how Republicans could solve a $1.5 trillion deficit without finding the courage to cut the promised $100 billion from their first budget process. Their defenders pointed out that the CR only covers half a year, and that the Pledge referred to the FY2012 budget, which at the time was presumed to be the first budget House Republicans could control. This agreement shows that the hurdle to get to $100 million up front was not as high as those defenders argued.
Next, the Senate has to pass the bill, and that may mean trouble for these cuts. While Democrats in red states may hear footsteps and be inclined to support some cuts, Harry Reid is going to do his best to water down any sense of victory the GOP can claim. Even though it seems unlikely now that Barack Obama will veto a CR with these cuts — after all, he has just proposed cutting the poverty program LIHEAP by over 30%, down to its 2008 level — Reid will do his best to restore as much of the funding as possible.
That will make a conference commmittee very interesting — as well as which members of the House get assigned to it. Will they be the freshman and other Tea Party supporters, or the wise old hands that thought $32 billion was as much as they could cut?
Update: I meant to write “twelve months” in the subheader, not “two.”