As Republican leaders and newly elected members made the round of Sunday shows, it was clear that there is not yet a consensus within the Republican conference on fiscal issues.
Sen.-elect Rand Paul, R-Ky., said Republicans will have to look at cutting military spending as they seek to trim the federal budget, in a break with party orthodoxy including the victorious House Republicans’ “Pledge to America.”
“Bottom line is, you have to look at everything across the board,” Paul said on ABC’s “This Week.” Paul also said Republicans should look at the major federal entitlement programs for spending cuts as well, but would exempt retirees and those currently older than 55 from any cuts in Social Security benefits.
When asked about raising the retirement age, Paul replied: “You may have to.” Paul also mentioned changing the way benefits are calculated and perhaps trimming them for wealthier retirees, but that the only way Social Security and Medicare costs can be contained is “to take it out of campaign mode.”
“You know, everybody in the campaign mode, how long have we been running 'Mediscare' ads? Democrats have run against Republicans for years saying we're going to take away your grandmother's Social Security. We're not going to do that,” Paul told ABC’s Christiane Amanpour.
Paul said he hopes to get on the Senate Budget Committee, and he said he’d push the panel to produce a balanced–budget plan as an alternative to the Senate Democrats’ spending blueprint.
The likely House Majority Leader, Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., said on Fox News Sunday Republicans will demonstrate their commitment to spending cuts well before Congress has to decide whether to hike the debt ceiling this spring. "A vote on either side of the issue of a debt ceiling increase has serious consequences. But before we even get to that vote, we're going to have the opportunity to demonstrate this is a cost-cutting Congress," Cantor said.
If Congress does not act to raise the debt ceiling, currently at $14.3 trillion, the nation would default on its obligations and would no longer pay able to pay interest on its debts. Some tea party-backed conservatives, including Sen.-elect Paul, say they won't support a debt limit increase.
Cantor said House Republicans are planning to hold weekly spending-cut votes, beginning with a bill to cut $100 billion from non-military discretionary spending. He said House Republicans are suspending earmarks for the next two years as well.
Speaking on CBS' "Face the Nation," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell signaled that the Senate may not be as willing to go along with a full-scale earmark ban, although he's willing to consider it. McConnell, a longtime member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said such a move won't actually cut overall spending, but would simply give Congress less control over the power of the purse.
One Republican from outside of Congress predicted called for radical measures. President Reagan's former budget director, David Stockman, said Republicans need to accept significant entitlement program cuts as well as tax increases. "The Republicans have been at bat for 30 years, and they've whiffed on everything," Stockman said on ABC’s “This Week.”
"Social Security needs to be means-tested right now, not for benefits in 2030, right now, for the top one-third of beneficiaries who have private income that they've earned over their lifetime. We need to drastically scale back Medicare. And the Republicans expanded it," he said.
The architect of Reagan's sweeping 1981 tax-cut plan, Stockman nonetheless said it's time for supply-side orthodoxy to be re-considered. "Two years after the crisis on Wall Street, it has been announced that bonuses this year will be $144 billion, the highest in history. That's who's going to get this tax cut on the top, you know, 2 percent of the population," Stockman said. "They don't need a tax cut. They don't deserve it. And, therefore, what we have to do is focus on Main Street, and that means getting our house in order fiscally, not tax cuts that we can't afford."