GOP Defaults on Pledge to America

Hugh Hewitt

2/10/2011 12:01:00 AM - Hugh Hewitt

The number of Republican Members of Congress who appeared on my radio show between their “thumpin’” in 2006 and their return to power in 2010 who admitted with apparent remorse that “We lost our way” is easily in double digits.

That was the mantra, and embedded within it an implied pledge that, if the voters would just give them another chance, all would be different.

How different? Vastly, completely, transcendently different. And the House Republicans took that implied pledge, made it explicit, and put it all in a “Pledge to America” that promised in key language on page 21 that if a new GOP majority was sent to D.C. it would:

Act Immediately to Reduce Spending

There is no reason to wait to reduce wasteful and unnecessary spending. Congress should move immediately to cancel unspent “stimulus” funds, and block any attempts to extend the timeline for spending “stimulus” funds. Throwing more money at a stimulus plan that is not working only wastes taxpayer money and puts us further in debt.

Cut Government Spending to Pre-Stimulus, Pre-Bailout Levels

With common-sense exceptions for seniors, veterans, and our troops, we will roll back government spending to prestimulus, pre-bailout levels, saving us at least $100 billion in the first year alone and putting us on a path to begin paying down the debt, balancing the budget, and ending the spending spree in Washington that threatens our children’s future.

Well, the voters bit. Like Charlie Brown charging at Lucy's football, the Republican activists and the Tea Party volunteers combined to power a huge GOP wave. The “Lost” were welcomed back to power.

And this week they have proven that indeed they are still lost. Far worse, they are throwing their collective credibility on a bonfire.

Having promised a minimum $100 billion in cuts, the House Budget and Appropriations Committees came up with less than $40 billion in spending reductions, and a line of excuses for failure as long as the distance from their September Pledge to the February reality of their actions.

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.