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Big Cuts on the Agenda, Details on Hold

File Photo
Speaker John Boehner (right) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor have taken a measured approach to cutting the budget in their first few weeks in leadership.

With an ambitious plan to cut $100 billion in federal spending as a backdrop, House Republicans are sticking to broad pronouncements about the need for cuts as they quietly work out a legislative strategy for the coming months.

Unlike previous leadership regimes in the House that charged ahead furiously in the early weeks of their new tenure, Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.) have taken a measured approach. Aside from last week’s symbolic vote on repeal of the health care law — a bill even Republicans acknowledge has no chance of becoming law — the schedule has been limited to minor spending cuts such as a federal printing reduction bill and broader resolutions tasking committees with beginning work on more substantive measures.

Although leaders have been pressed to lay out specific spending cuts and other budget measures they will pursue, they have largely avoided such pronouncements. For instance, when asked about what cuts to infrastructure and education spending he would support, Cantor on Monday said only: “We’ve got a changing dynamic across the board, with the imperative for us to cut spending. And those are the kind of things this Congress will be about.”

So far, the strategy of not immediately pursuing sweeping spending and economic reforms seems to be sitting well with Republicans.

Freshman Rep. Joe Walsh said he wasn’t worried about leadership backtracking on its promise to cut spending to 2008 levels.

“I expect them to be pretty receptive,” the Illinois Republican said Thursday. He said that he expected a “dizzying” pace over the next month or two as the House takes up budget issues.

“They are going to try to cut something every week and grow that concept,” Walsh said. “It’s a dance; it’s a process.”

Even Republicans who have been pushing for deeper cuts — something leadership has largely resisted embracing in public — are understanding.

Rep. Jim Jordan, chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, said that while he understands the GOP leadership’s position that it would be hard to go back to 2008 levels four months into the fiscal year, he still thinks they should be able to cut $100 billion.

“The $100 billion is the number that the American people heard, I think, last fall, and frankly when you are looking at it in the context that there was a $14 trillion debt, it seems to me we should be able to find $100 billion [to cut] for the remainder of 2010,” the Ohio Republican said.

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