GOP veteran: Tea Party freshmen may rue $100B in cuts

The $100 billion in budget cuts being forced by Tea Party freshmen may come back to haunt them, a veteran lawmaker and close ally of Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Friday. 

Asked if new members grasp what it means to cut $100 billion, Rep. Tom Latham (R-Iowa) said “they’ll be informed soon, I am sure, by a lot of constituents.”  

“There are going to be ramifications,” said Latham, the chairman of the Appropriations Committee subpanel on transportation and housing.

GOP leaders on Friday were scrambling to put the final touches on a spending measure after having to re-write their bill because of a revolt by junior members.

The GOP leaders were going to present a measure funding the government for the rest of the fiscal year that would cut spending by $74 billion from President Obama’s budget request last year. Obama’s budget was never enacted, so the GOP’s initial plan would have reduced current spending by $32 billion.

Tea Party freshman balked, saying they wouldn’t accept cuts less than $100 billion from Obama’s budget request. The new plan would cut about $58 billion from current spending.

Latham added that it is also important to keep your word, and he understands where freshmen are coming from.

He also said the dispute between leadership and freshmen arose over “a matter of interpretation” over what the Pledge to America meant when it said the GOP would cut spending to 2008 levels in the first year.

Freshmen, he said, take that to mean the final seven months of fiscal 2011. Leadership believes it means the GOP’s whole first year in office, which would include the first three months of the next fiscal year.

Latham also said that the leadership version of the bill had a better chance of being accepted by the Senate and becoming law, and this was a reason to back it. He said the new, deeper cuts risk a situation where only a funding measure at the 2010 level remains in place once the Senate blocks the bill.

“I did think that there was a reasonable opportunity for us to come up with an agreement the way the bill was before,” he said. “I would like to see some real cuts enacted and my concern is that we could end up just with a continuing resolution getting re-enacted that just continues funding at current levels and we don’t see any reductions.”

Interior and Environment Appropriations subcommittee chairman Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) agreed Friday that the new version of the bill has less of a chance of getting through the Senate than the old bill.

But he said, the House cannot worry about the Senate at this point, and will have to negotiate when the time comes. This could lead to a government shutdown, he acknowledged, but he said that is not the GOP aim.

“I know for a fact that House leadership does not want a shutdown,” he said, adding that a series of short-term funding measures is the likely scenario next month.

One of the Tea Party-backed freshman acknowledged Friday that the new members are unlikely to see $100 billion in cuts make it into law.

“There is no question that the Senate is not going to do what we want them to do,” said freshman Rep. Tim Scott (R-S.C.). “There is going to have to be negotiations.”