By Alexander Bolton - 03/08/11 07:52 PM EST
Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), who faces a Tea Party-backed challenge in his 2012 primary, has withdrawn his stated opposition to House-passed spending cuts.
Lugar said Tuesday afternoon that he made a mistake when he told reporters earlier in the day that he would oppose H.R. 1, the House GOP plan to cut an additional $57 billion from the 2011 budget.
“I’m going to vote with the Republicans on the issue when H.R. 1 comes up,” Lugar said. “If it’s strictly an affirmative vote, I will be for H.R. 1 because all the Republicans will be voting for H.R. 1.”
Lugar said he does not like the “formulation” of the spending cuts passed by the House and would like Congress to go even further to cut the deficit.
“My own feeling would be that we probably need to have more extensive savings than $58 or $61 billion,” he said.
Slightly more than an hour earlier in the day, Lugar told reporters that he would oppose the House bill as he walked into a weekly lunch meeting with Republican colleagues.
Lugar apologized for the confusion.
“I’m sorry if I misled people,” he said. “I’m going to vote for the Republican resolution, which is as clearly as I can say it.”
Lugar said he misunderstood the question because of the chaos of the press scrum that chased him to the door of the Lyndon Baines Johnson Room.
“I couldn’t figure out what the question was, I simply did not understand what everyone was all shouting and jumping around about,” he said. “Nevertheless I have indicated to the Republican Whip that I will vote, whenever the vote is — this afternoon or tomorrow — with the entire Republican group on H.R. 1.”
A Republican senator who attended the lunch meeting said leaders made a strong argument for all members of the caucus to support the House bill. The GOP lawmaker said Lugar did not speak up during that discussion and no comments were directed at him specifically.
As Lugar entered the weekly caucus lunch, he indicated he would oppose the House bill, saying, “I’m opposed to it."
Lugar had previously raised concerns about the bill during a television appearance last month.
When CNN host Candy Crowley asked Lugar if he could support the House-passed spending cuts, he said: “No, I would not support the entirety of the House bill, but I think the basic problem presently is there’s very little time.”
Lugar said he worried about a possible government shutdown.
This story was first posted at 1:28 p.m.