The effort to define the Pledge away on technical arguments was immediate --"Five months of spending are already behind us!"-- as though the public that swarmed the town hall meetings in anger over “deemed passed” would be willing to accept a 7/12ths argument as a reason not to reset the baseline at "prestimulus, pre-bailout" levels in the Continuing Resolution. A “cut” of $32 billion proposed by the Budget Committee was less than 1% of the total proposed for expenditure in 2011, and nowhere near the slashing needed to get to the Pledge's promises.
Why the refusal to cut? According to Politico's David Rogers, the new Republican Chair of the Appropriations Committee had this set of warnings for his caucus:
Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) warned his colleagues that to cut more now, risks forcing layoffs of federal employees at a time when both parties say their priority is to reduce unemployment.
For example, Rogers said the necessary cuts in the DEA’s budget could put the agency at really pre-1992 levels in some cases, and cuts to FAA operations risk 41 day furloughs for the air traffic controller workforces.
This is extraordinary, a wholesale adoption of Democratic rhetoric, and one sure to outrage conservatives who did not sacrifice their time and money so that senior Republicans could shrink from difficult choices and adopt standard-issue Democratic scare tactics. (The Politico.com article with the Rogers quote has been edited and the two paragraphs have been deleted.)
If the House GOP agrees to send the president a Continuing Resolution with less than $100 billion of cuts in its final form, the blow to its credibility will be deep and lasting, and the electoral consequences to the freshmen who ran on being committed to serious deficit reduction will be disastrous. Semantics and excuses will not fly, and the freshmen will have no one to blame but themselves for allowing themselves to be herded over a cliff.
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