Jim Antle thinks that the Republican’s “great shrinking budget cuts” — they started out at $100 billion in the Pledge to America, clocked in at a pro-rated $74 billion in budget chief Rep. Paul Ryan’s proposal, and would cut only about $35 billion relative to authorized spending — are “not terribly encouraging.” Ross Kaminsky, on the other hand, has faith in Ryan’s promise that the cuts are just an “opening pitch,” and that Republicans will produce bigger reductions soon.
The merits of the proposal aside, Republicans who, for strategic or political reasons, aren’t willing to make serious spending cuts at this point would do well to beware of any votes that separate the GOP into those who are on the side of the Tea Partiers and those who are not. Of course, such votes played a large role in the 2010 midterms. Probably the most relevant examples are red-state Republicans Sen. Bob Bennett in Utah and Rep. Bob Inglis in South Carolina, who probably would have escaped defeat in the primaries if not for a single vote that would later prove unacceptable in the eyes of the Tea Partiers. This dynamic has only become more important in the 112th Congress, as evidenced by the fact that no Republicans in the House or Senate dared to vote against repeal of Obamacare, even though that stance was not necessarily universally regarded as the best approach immediately after the passage of the bill in March of 2010.
The $100 billion in spending cuts promised in the Pledge is an arbitrary amount, but it could still becoming a defining measure if the Republican caucus fails to deliver on that campaign promise or offer other serious reforms. If the full $100 billion somehow came up for a vote without the entire GOP on board, the Republicans who weren’t ready to follow through on the Pledge could face a test they hadn’t anticipated.
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