The Republican Study Committee—a conservative committee which includes about three quarters of the Republican House conference—released a plan yesterday that, lo and behold, attached some actual touch-and-feel-em concrete ideas to the party’s plan to “slash” and “cut” federal discretionary spending. The plan calls for $2.5 trillion in cuts over ten years (not touching the military, Medicare, or Social Security), a deep incision they say will be achieved by reducing non-security discretionary spending to 2008 levels for the rest of 2011, and to 2006 levels thereafter. The proposal, put forward yesterday in a press conference by Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, chairman of the study committee, and others, is both more specific and tougher than commitments previously put out by the House leadership: an immediate cut of $100 billion compared to the (up to) $80 billion that leaders are seeking.
It’s full of specific proposals, which led the Post’s Ezra Klein to call it “a healthy document” the Dems are likely to be “interested in debating.” Dave Weigel at Slate—who declares “You can stop needling Republicans about what programs they want to cut now”—has a nice highlights reel of specific cuts the study committee is proposing:
The proposal does what Republicans have been talking about for two years—“repeal” of remaining stimulus funds (now $45 billion), privatizing Fannie and Freddie ($30 billion), repealing Medicaid’ FMAP increase ($16.1 billion), and what they estimate at $330 billion in discretionary spending cuts. Highlights of these projected annual savings:
- Cutting the federal workforce by 15 percent through attrition, and do this by allowing only one new federal worker for every two who quit.
- Killing the “fund for Obamacare administrative costs” for $900 million
- Ending Amtrak subsidies for $1.565 billion
- Ending intercity and high speed rail grants for $2.5 billion
- Repealing Davis-Bacon for $1 billion
- Cutting annual general assistance to the District of Columbia by $210 million, and cutting the subsidy for DC’s transit authority by $150 million.
There are a number of issues for reporters to tease out here. First, it’s a complicated development for the non-wonk—explaining what exactly non-security discretionary spending is is a task, as is outlining where the cuts would occur, and what the impact of those cuts might be. And wise reporters have noted that although more specific than other statements and documents that have come before it, the new plans to cut to 2006 levels in 2012 are largely free of the kind of specifics you see above.
Second, it’s a complex political issue. Not just because a bill which carried all of these cuts would have little chance of passing in the Democratic senate, but because it sets up for a potential internal struggle between more conservative Tea Party segments of the Republican conference and the party’s leaders, who’ve proposed more modest cuts. The complexity here is in drawing attention to that difference without overstating it. So far, GOP House Leaders and figureheads of the new “cut deeper” crowd have played nice, publicly at least. This fight seems more expected than in progress. But it’s brewing.
In a Times front-page story today which calls the measures “drastic,” David M. Herszenhorn effectively spells out the internal political problems the plan might pose.
Even before the midterm elections, party leaders issued a “Pledge to America,” promising, without providing details of which programs would be cut, to reduce nonsecurity discretionary spending to 2008 levels, a cut that Mr. Boehner had initially pegged at about $100 billion for this fiscal year.
But with a temporary spending measure in place until early March — more than five months into the fiscal year — Republican leaders, including the Budget Committee chairman, Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, have said that a more realistic goal would be cuts to 2008 levels prorated for the remainder of the fiscal year, or about $60 billion to $80 billion.
Conservative lawmakers, however, said that was not enough.
“Speaking with many of my freshmen colleagues, for us, myself included, the pledge, the $100 billion, was simply a start; it was simply a floor,” Mr. Mulvaney, the South Carolina freshman, said at a news conference to unveil the study committee’s proposal. He added: “Anybody who is up to speed on budget issues should be scared to death by what’s happening with the debt and the deficit in this country. If you’re not losing sleep over it, then you’re simply not paying attention.”