A House aide confirms there was a feeling of “confusion in the ranks” about the spending numbers that, combined with a growing sense of frustration, really drove the effort to get an unambiguous $100 billion included in the CR. “The goal was to make a clear statement and make sure that nothing would be open to interpretation,” the aide says.
Party leaders heard that message loud and clear and quickly took action. The Appropriations Committee scrapped a number of scheduled hearings and called a meeting of the subcommittee chairmen on that afternoon. “It was very apparent that freshman members in particular were not pleased,” an appropriations aide familiar with the situation says. “There was pretty strong guidance from leadership: You’ve got to find more to cut.”
The already-tense atmosphere was exacerbated by a series of failed votes on measures that many expected to comfortably pass the GOP-controlled House, such as an extension of certain provisions of the Patriot Act and a “YouCut” proposal to secure repayment of money the United Nations owes the U.S. This created an entirely new impetus for party leaders to seek out a unified strategy on spending, a GOP source tells us: “We have to know what the outcomes are going to be when we got into a vote.”
As it stands, the dissenters appear to have prevailed with astounding speed. House Appropriations chairman Hal Rogers (R., Ky.) announced Thursday that additional cuts were in the offing. “After meeting with my subcommittee chairs, we have determined that the CR can and will reach a total of $100 billion in cuts compared with the president’s request immediately — fully meeting the goal outlined in the Republican ‘Pledge to America’ in one fell swoop,” Rogers said in a statement.
Aides tell National Review Online that party leaders are working diligently behind the scenes “trying to right the ship” before the CR is brought to floor next week. Freshman members have been signing on to a collective effort led by Representatives Flake, Jordan, and Tom Graves (R., Ga.) to engage the leadership and set the stage for next week’s debate. Amendments are being prepared, the details of which will be ironed out in the coming days, and there could well be additional intramural showdowns ahead. In particular, expect a push from members who believe that even cutting $100 billion relative to President Obama’s request is a cop-out — they’d prefer to see cuts based off the 2010 CR levels, which are lower.
House Speaker John Boehner told reporters Thursday that all bickering and confusion aside, Republicans were on the verge of a significant achievement. “Next week, we will bring to the floor a CR that contains the largest discretionary spending cut in the history of our country,” he said. “This resolution will be marked not by what it continues but by what it ends — and that is Washington’s spending binge.”
That was true of Ryan’s initial numbers, and it’s truer now.
— Andrew Stiles is a 2011 Franklin Fellow.