Republicans take a $100 billion whack at Obama budget
Bending to party conservatives – notably tea partiers – House GOP leaders propose steep cuts in many popular programs for the rest of the fiscal year. Will it lead to a government shut-down?
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Others raise the specter of 1995, when then-president Bill Clinton vetoed a spending bill written by the GOP-controlled House (led by then-Speaker Newt Gingrich), resulting in a temporary halt to many government programs – including the closing of national parks at a time when many Americans were on vacation. The budget snit eventually was resolved, but Clinton won in the court of public opinion – which helped him win reelection the following year.Skip to next paragraph
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This year, the government could shut down if a new continuing resolution is not passed by March 4. That would lay off tens of thousands of workers – more when private firms filling government contracts are added in. That’s not a politically-palatable prospect at a time when unemployment remains high.
The cuts are more than symbolic. Still, they target only about 13 percent of the government's $3.7 trillion budget.
Originally, the House GOP leadership planned for about $32 billion in spending cuts. But feeling the hot breath of hardcore fiscal conservatives – including many new freshmen, not to mention the tea party movement – they upped that to $61 billion (or “$100 billion” below what Obama wanted to spend).
The budgetary exercise points up internal friction within the GOP over government spending and budget-balancing.
There are the tea partiers, and then there are what might be called the tea-totallers – that slight majority of Republicans (and Republican-leaning independents) who don’t fall in line with the tea party movement.
According to a new survey by the Pew Research Center, “across a wide range of issues – including federal spending on entitlements, education, agriculture, and energy – the spending preferences of Republicans and GOP leaners who do not agree with the tea party are far more in sync with Democrats than with Republican supporters of the tea party.”
“A third of Republicans and GOP leaners who agree with the Tea Party favor decreasing federal education spending, compared with just 4 percent of non-Tea Party Republicans,” reports Pew. “Instead, 64 percent of non-Tea Party Republicans want increased education spending, as do 78 percent of Democrats and Democratic leaners.”
Similarly, there are differences within the Republican base over Social Security, Medicare, foreign aid, and help for the unemployed. Which is why House Speaker John Boehner (R) of Ohio and his lieutenants saluted smartly in deference to party conservatives.
Meanwhile, the fun is just beginning. On Monday, the Obama administration unveils its proposed budget for 2012.