By Erik Wasson
House Republicans are backing away from their pledge to cut $100 billion from the federal budget.
GOP aides say Republicans will still look to make significant cuts to spending, but the whole idea of cutting $100 billion was based on the premise that President Obama’s full-year 2011 budget would be enacted.
They say the GOP will remain true to its pledge to try to return non-security discretionary spending to 2008 levels, but that their pledges to reduce the budget by $100 billion do not apply to the budget being developed for the second half of fiscal 2011, which ends Sept. 30.
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.
Incoming House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) told NBC's “Today" show Wednesday that he was not ready to release the exact spending cuts for 2011, which he will have the power to set himself.
“I can't tell you by what amount ... but it will all be coming down,” he said.
Democrats seized on the $100 billion figure as an example of the GOP backing off its campaign manifesto.
“It’s now clear that the House Republicans’ pledges aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on as they start breaking them before even being sworn in,” said Jesse Ferguson of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
The GOP “Pledge to America” vows to “cut government spending to pre-stimulus, pre-bailout levels saving at least $100 billion in the first year alone.”
The left-leaning Center for Budget and Policy Priorities estimated that fulfilling the pledge would result in an unprecedented 21 percent cut in spending in one year.