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House's New Leaders Go Micro On First Spending Cuts

Jan 4, 2011

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House Republicans would like you to know they are serious about saving money even if it's not yet serious money.

Don't get me wrong. The $35 million they plan to cut from congressional budgets is a vast sum to most people. Even billionaires would notice that amount of money.

But relative to a $3.55 trillion federal budget, $35 million doesn't get you too far down the road of fiscal responsibility like say cutting entitlements. The Pentagon probably misplaces at least that amount of money each day.

Still, Congress is always good at going after the low-hanging fruit and what could be more low-hanging than their own budgets?

So among the first votes scheduled after Republicans take control of the House this week is one in which they will vote to reduce their own budgets by five percent which equals $35 million.

Speaker-to-be Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) issued a statement commending Rep. Greg Waldron (R-OR) for spearheading the House GOP effort on this front:

In the Pledge to America, Republicans made a clear commitment to cut Congress's budget, and in our first full day on the job, we will do just that.  To reverse Washington's job-killing spending binge, sacrifices will be required throughout the federal government, and we are starting with ourselves.  After taking this step, we will turn our attention to the rest of the federal budget, and the policies that are making it harder for small businesses to get people working again, including the job-killing health care law.

"More fundamentally, cutting the cost of Congress is part of bringing to the people's House the humility and modesty our constituents are expecting from us.  Delivering additional savings for taxpayers will, of course, require sustained vigilance on the part of all lawmakers and House officers.  By recommending cuts that will immediately save taxpayers $35 million, Greg Walden and the members of the transition team have gotten us off on the right foot."

House Republicans have provided a link to the resolution calling for the reduction in the House budget.

Expect numerous announcements of smaller spending cuts like this one. Republicans have made the more ambitious vow to cut $100 billion in domestic discretionary spending.

But that's a lot of money and many experts wonder how they'll do it. As The Wall Street Journal's David Wessel told Morning Edition co-host Steve Inskeep:

Republicans say they want to cut $100 billion out of spending on everything other than defense, veterans and national security. That would mean a 20 percent cut in everything else. That seems pretty heroic.

Major Garrett of the National Journal provided some historic context to the proposed $100 billion in cuts to current spending. On NPR's On Point program, Garrett said of the 100 billion in cuts:

That is a substantial chunk of money. When Republicans came in in 1995 they also pledged to cut spending. They cut $16.7 billion in 1995. Inflation adjusted, that's still not anywhere close to $100 billion. And they had a very devilish time doing it.

It was much harder than they thought it would be to cut even that small amount from the previous budgets under President Clinton. A hundred billion dollars will require a lot of cuts to existing government programs that did receive boosts in the stimulus and did receive boosts in the appropriations bills passed and signed under Democratic leadership and President Obama in the White House.

That is going to put them in a politically perilous situation because if you cut some of these programs people are going to feel the effects.

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