Reports that Republicans are scaling back their goal to cut spending by 20 percent this year aren’t entirely correct. While GOP leaders have backed off the $100 billion figure proposed in their Pledge to America, it is because the cuts won't be ready until almost half of the fiscal year is already over.
House Republican leaders are now talking about cuts in the range of $50 billion to $60 billion. But when the continuing resolution ends on March 4, the GOP will have seven months left in the fiscal year to make cuts -- and they would have to be much higher than 20 percent to achieve savings of $100 billion within the year.
“House Republicans remain committed to fulfilling their pledge; this has not changed,” said Conor Sweeney, communications director for new Budget Committee head Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., in an e-mail to National Journal. “Unfortunately, Democrats refused to take action and oversaw an unprecedented breakdown in the budget process, with stopgap spending bills that provide a different benchmark than President Obama's initial fiscal plan.”
Aides cited $50 billion or $60 billion as a more realistic goal for the seven months the GOP will have to shape the budget, according to The New York Times.
But Republicans are “not reneging” on the promise to cut spending to 2008 levels, Ryan said on NBC’s Today show on Wednesday morning.
“The problem with the $100 billion point is we said we’re going to bring spending down to 2008 levels,” Ryan said. “We’re halfway through the fiscal year right now. So the problem is [that] half the spending cats are already out of the bag, and that is why that number has become compromised.”
Asked about pledges to cut $100 billion made even after it became clear over the course of the fall that stopgap measures would fund the government for part of the year, Sweeney indicated that GOP leaders aim to cut much more than $100 billion in total (beyond discretionary spending cuts for the rest of fiscal 2011).
Ryan told the hosts of MSNBC’s Morning Joe that “starting with the fiscal year 2012 budget, which starts in October, that’s where we want to look at all other areas of savings in the budget.”