Republicans set marker on spending at $2.5 trillion in cuts

A caucus of conservative Republicans unveiled a proposal on Thursday that would trim federal spending by $2.5 trillion over 10 years. 

Republican Study Committee (RSC) Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) said Thursday that the RSC will be using the plan as a “marker” in the fight over the continuing resolution that will fund the government after March 4.

“We went to members of RSC and said, ‘Bring us your ideas.’ … While it doesn’t fix everything, it is a good first step,” Jordan said of the plan.

Jordan said he has not talked to his party's leadership about moving the bill, but House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said Thursday he supports the plan being brought up for a separate up-or-down vote during floor consideration of the continuing resolution for the rest of 2011.

"As promised, we will have an open process when it comes to spending bills. I look forward to these cuts and others being brought to the floor for an up-or-down vote during consideration of the CR, and I support that effort," Canton said in a statement. 

The office of Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) did not explicitly back the plan Thursday.

“Our immediate goal to cut spending to pre-bailout, pre-stimulus levels.  That’s what we pledged, and that’s what we’ll fight for.  But that will be the beginning, not the end, of our efforts to cut spending and create jobs – and the Speaker appreciates every Member’s input," Michael Steel, spokesman for Boehner, said.

The RSC’s deficit reduction plan would reduce spending for the rest of 2011 to levels set in 2008, and impose 2006 spending levels for the 10 years after that. The plan does not include adjustments for inflation.



“We want to see a full $100 billion in cuts [for 2011],” Jordan said.


The GOP promised $100 billion in cuts during the midterm campaign, but this month said that figure was too large because it had been based on the assumption that President Obama’s 2011 budget had passed the 111th Congress. Republicans have discussed pro-rating the 2011 spending cut to about $60 billion.

The RSC plan includes drastic cuts to perennial GOP targets like the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Arts and the U.S. Agency for International Development. Major cuts also include reducing subsidies for Amtrak and cutting the federal travel budget in half.

Continuing the conservative attack on the Obama healthcare law, the plan prohibits any fiscal 2011 funding from being used to carry out any of the law’s provisions. The proposal also bars the administration from defending the healthcare law in court. A federal judge in Virginia has ruled that the law's requirement that everyone buy insurance is unconstitutional, and the administration is expected to defend the law on appeal. 

The plan estimates that eliminating funding for administrative costs in healthcare reform would save the government $900 million. 

The RSC plan ends automatic pay increases for civilian federal workers for five years, cuts the workforce by 15 percent through attrition and would only allow the hiring of one new worker for every two workers who leave federal employment.

The Republican proposal would also eliminate federal control of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, creating $30 billion in savings, according to the proposal.

The RSC claims that rescinding unspent stimulus funding would save another $45 billion, but this figure is in dispute. The independent auditor of the Recovery Act estimated that only $12 billion in stimulus funding remained as of October.

Jordan said that the RSC also met Wednesday to discuss strategy on the vote to raise the nation’s $14.3 trillion debt ceiling, but he said members failed to reach a common position on whether to tie any specific spending cuts to the bill raising it. 

Some conservatives are resisting raising the debt ceiling and argue that refusing to increase it would force the immediate 40 percent cut in overall spending that the economy needs. Others want to condition raising the debt ceiling to passage of a balanced budget amendment.

Jordan said that the fight over a continuing budget resolution will come before the debt ceiling battle, which is likely before the end of May, and the RSC is focusing on that first.

Jordan said spending cuts and a bill to reform welfare to be unveiled at a later date are the RSC priorities for 2011.

He said Thursday that “everything needs to be on the table” to prevent a debt crisis akin to that of Greece the United States. He said Social Security, Medicare and defense spending all need to addressed, though he also acknowledged the political risks conservatives will face in addressing entitlements. 

“While it will be tough, while older Americans don’t want certain things to be cut … I think the American people are ready for it,” Jordan said.