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.
“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.
In the past, the RSC has often been a thorn in the side of the GOP’s elected leadership. But at least for now, Jordan and its membership appear content to act as a loyal opposition of sorts within the party. In a cordial letter to Boehner and other leaders Monday, the RSC urged: “With this historic opportunity to cut spending and grow our economy, it is critical that our Conference, at a minimum, meet the original $100 billion savings goal. ... We stand ready to work with you on finding the savings needed.”
The go-slow strategy has significant upsides for leadership. For instance, it provides more time to work out specific policy proposals that can get wide approval from rank-and-file Republicans. Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (Wis.) and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) have also been conducting “listening sessions” with freshman Members on budget issues to solicit ideas and discuss possible policy options.
Slowing the legislative process and securing support from the bulk of his party allows Boehner to claim credit on making good on the campaign pledge of having a more open process — without risking the types of major floor rebellions that plagued Democrats over the past two years.
More broadly, it also gives Cantor and Boehner time to talk in broader themes of governing without being constrained by a specific policy fight. For example, Cantor will travel to Davos, Switzerland, on Thursday for the annual international economic meeting. Although he isn’t expected to use the trip to announce any broad new policies, he does hope to use it as a way to “amplify our House Republican spending” message.
Aides acknowledged the delay does cause problems, particularly in the short term when Members don’t have any major legislative actions to point to.
“It’s the one problem with Boehner’s strategy,” a GOP aide said Monday, explaining that until committees have time to do their work and leadership develops a concrete plan for cutting the budget, Republicans will have to stick to generalities. “Whenever someone asks us about specifics ... all we have is printing,” the aide said.
Additionally, Republicans warned that if they don’t deliver on their promises, it could mean big problems for junior House Members.
“I can speak for myself that if we don’t do a real serious job on spending these next two years, then I think voters in my district will feel like I didn’t deliver, and I would imagine that sentiment is felt by a lot of freshmen,” Walsh said.
Roll Call has launched a new feature, Hill Navigator, to advise congressional staffers and would-be staffers on how to manage workplace issues on Capitol Hill. Please send us your questions anything from office etiquette, to handling awkward moments, to what happens when the work life gets too personal. Submissions will be treated anonymously.