That’s the way House Democrats, and many in the media, are portraying it. And it’s true that it is going to be difficult for Republicans to find enough cuts this fiscal year to hit the $100 billion target promised in the “Pledge to America.”
Why? Well, in large part, because of the Republicans’ own successes. See, the intention of the “Pledge” was always to reduce non-defense discretionary spending to 2008 levels — before the bailout and stimulus bonanza. The $100 billion figure (actually $107 billion) was arrived at simply by subtracting 2008 spending from the levels proposed in President Obama’s 2011 budget. But since congressional Democrats offered no budget of their own, and Republicans defeated the omnibus spending bill in the lame duck, passing instead a short-term continuing resolution that locked spending into 2010 levels, the baseline is at least $20 billion lower than it was at the time the Pledge was written. Add to this the fact that the current fiscal year is already five months gone, and the total dollar amount of year-one spending cuts will almost certainly be lower than $100 billion.
This has prompted House Democrats to call out Republicans for failing to live up to their promise (at the same time they are warning that any budget cuts will be disastrous). But that’s not really fair. House GOP staffers tell me that the intention is still to reduce non-defense discretionary spending to 2008 levels, and to do whatever it takes to make that happen.