Buoyed by their successful vote to repeal healthcare reform, conservative House Republicans on Thursday rolled out plans for a massive, $2.5 trillion cut in federal spending over the next 10 years.
The proposal, to be contained in the Spending Reduction Act of 2011, would reset non-security discretionary spending to 2008 levels, affecting everything from state stimulus money to federal involvement in mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, to foreign aid, education, transportation, scientific research and over 100 other federal programs.
“Whether Americans realize it or not, we are all running together in a race against time. Unless Washington takes swift action to cut spending, we will chain our children to debt and rob them of the opportunity to reach for the American Dream,” declared Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, and Rep. Scott Garrett, R-N.J. in an op-ed published in the Washington Examiner Wednesday.
DeMint has announced he will introduce a companion bill in the Senate mirroring the House proposals.
Jordan, the chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, unveiled the budget-austerity package on Thursday at the conservative, D.C.-based Heritage Foundation think tank.
House Minority Leader Eric Cantor pledged the RSC proposals will be allowed to come up for an up-or-down vote on the floor of the House.
“I applaud the Republican Study Committee for proposing cuts in federal spending, and I look forward to the discussion on reducing spending that our country so desperately needs to have,” said Cantor. “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 continuing resolution [for funding the federal government], and I support that effort.”
Among the committee’s proposals:
- Automatic pay increases for civilian federal workers would be eliminated for the next five years.
- The civilian workforce would be cut by 15 percent through attrition.
- All stimulus funding not already spent would be “clawed back” and eliminated. This would further aggravate the near-desperate fiscal conditions of several states that are facing massive deficits.
- Funding for the controversial Corporation for Public Broadcasting would be eliminated, saving $445 million per year.
- Funding for the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities would be eliminated, saving over $320 million annually.
- Some $1.56 billion would be saved by eliminating all federal subsidies to Amtrak.
- Some 68 duplicative education programs would be eliminated, saving $1.3 billion annually.
- $1 billion would be gained through requiring the collection of unpaid taxes by federal employees.
- $900 million would be saved by eliminating funds for the administrative cost of setting up Obamacare.
Republicans know that by getting specific on what they want to cut from the budget, they open themselves up to a constant drubbing from Democrats who will say their ruthless proposals will cost jobs and endanger the fragile economic recovery.
But as indicated by warnings from bond-rating agencies about the soundness of U.S. debt, especially in the municipal bond market, Republicans will make the case that the greater danger lies failing to address a national debt that has ballooned alarmingly from $8.6 trillion to $14 trillion since Democrats took over control of the House of Representatives in January 2007. And they point to the power of the tea-party movement, saying it will help them transform their objectives into reality, despite the heavy political opposition that is expected.
Adam Brandon, a spokesman for the FreedomWorks organization that helps facilitate the grass-roots conservative movement, tells Newsmax that the emergence of the tea parties has permanently changed what he called “the old-school playbook,” in which any politician proposing budget cuts used to be bludgeoned politically.
“The tea party is not going anywhere,” he says. “It’s this new player on the field that is setting the debate. These are the folks that are showing up in an office and they’re actually saying: ‘We want less.” Which is something that you haven’t had happen, especially to this magnitude. So I believe what we have is an opportunity, where the discourse has been changed where people are actually going to support people who stick their necks out and want less.”
Grass-roots conservatives welcomed the initiatives rolled out Thursday, but noted they do not address the major entitlement programs that consume most of the federal budget: Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.
They also emphasized that they do not accept recent signals from the GOP leadership suggesting Republicans will back away from cutting $100 billion in the current-year budget, as promised in the Pledge to America platform that helped propel the GOP to a record landslide in November. That outcome, they say, would not be acceptable.
Everett Wilkinson, the Florida Tea Party Patriots leader who sits on the organization’s national leadership council, tells Newsmax that the $2.5 trillion proposal is a “great first step,” although he says much more needs to be done to rein in federal spending.
But he also warned that grass-roots conservatives will not accept any proposal that backs off of the $100 billion pledge.
“That’s why they got elected,” he said. “They have a tough job. We understand that. We support them in that. But again, they made that deal to get elected, so we’re going to hold them accountable.”
FreedomWorks’ Brandon says the general thrust of Jordan’s proposals deserve strong support, but not at the cost of failing to make the cuts that were promised this year.
“The [$100 billion] pledge was put together by Republican leadership,” he told Newsmax. “It’s a very dangerous thing to get into if you throw something out there, and then you back away from it. To me they absolutely have to honor that commitment.”
The RSC plan is but one of several GOP proposals for austerity, which are meant to answer the months-long Democratic meme charging that Republicans had promised sharp budget cuts without identifying specific programs they would be willing to cut.