House Republican leaders under pressure from conservatives worked hard Thursday to prove their budget-cutting credentials, even taking to Twitter to fight reports they were cutting spending by $32 billion.
“Associated Press is wrong. House GOP plan would cut $74 billion from the Budget… and we’re just getting started,” House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) tweeted minutes after announcing his budget ceiling.
The AP correctly reported the budget ceiling announced Thursday by Ryan would cut $32 billion from current spending levels, but the GOP clearly wants the public to focus on the larger number.
The $32 billion figure wasn’t mentioned in a GOP press releases issued Thursday, and at a background briefing with reporters, Republican aides only discussed the $32 billion figure under questioning, emphasizing the proposal cut $74 billion from Obama’s budget request.
The messaging is aimed at both the Beltway audience and voters across the country.
“The reason they are doing as much groundwork they are doing is that they are sensitive to that criticism that they are not living up to their promises to Tea Party activists and others,” one prominent conservative fiscal lobbyist said.
The 2010 Pledge to America promised a $100 billion cut in "the first year alone."
Some conservatives quickly expressed displeasure that the size of the cut does not measure up to the pledge.
“Anything short of our pledge to cut $100 billion from FY11 will be getting off on the wrong foot,” Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), a prominent spending hawk, said in an e-mailed statement. “We’re going to have to do much better and cut much more.”
The conservative Heritage Foundation said Ryan’s ceiling would not reduce spending to 2008 levels, as RSC members have called for.
“Chairman Ryan’s proposal would reduce non-security discretionary spending to $420 billion, down from the president’s requested $478 billion, but $42 billion higher than the promised 2008 level of $378 billion,” Heritage wrote in an e-mail. “What conservatives need to know is that the proposal leaves an unacceptable $42 billion on the table.”
Heritage also criticized $16 billion in spending cuts to security measures in Ryan’s proposal, saying this may be “unwise.”
The conservative lobbyist said Republicans had “painted themselves in a corner” by promising a $100 billion cut. With that number in the minds of both their caucus members and the public, anything short of that cut will be seen by some as insufficient.
A GOP aide said that the comparison to the Obama budget is being used both because it is consistent with what was used in last year’s pledge and it illustrates the contrast with Democrat plans.
“The notion that this is the extent of House Republicans' appetite for spending cuts is demonstrably false,” House Budget Committee spokesman Conor Sweeney said.
Ryan also promised additional spending-cut proposals, and Republicans will allow their members to offer floor amendments to make deeper cuts.
The GOP scramble puts Democrats in an odd position. They attacked the substance of the cuts, saying they will hurt the economy, while also trying to skewer the GOP for failing to live up to its 2010 pledge.
“As Republicans conclude their first month in charge of Congress, they have not only failed to create jobs and strengthen the middle class, now they’re breaking the very promises they made to get elected,” said Jesse Ferguson of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “House Republicans pledged big budget cuts to get the support of their new tea-party fueled Freshman, and now those pledges appear not worth the paper they were printed on.”