What a Surprise!
The NY Times reports that a a new look at the budget is being planned by the Republicans in Congress.
Congress will embark this week on a major cost-cutting drive that conservative Republicans see as their party's chance to revive its reputation for frugality. But the conservatives face stiff resistance from united Democrats and skeptical fellow Republicans.
With Republican leaders pointing to the need to reduce spending elsewhere to pay for hurricane recovery, the Senate on Monday will begin considering a plan to pare $39 billion over the next five years. The House is assembling its own $50 billion package with an eye toward additional across-the-board cuts this year.
But forcing through the changes will not be easy. Democrats have so far been solid in their opposition, saying that Republicans will apply any savings to an ill-advised series of tax cuts. They contend that the programs to be scaled back will mean less federal help for the people who need it most, including the poor and the elderly.
With no Democrats to count on for help, the House and Senate leadership will need almost all Republicans behind them, and many have already expressed uneasiness about the cuts. The House was unable to put together a majority for a largely symbolic vote endorsing the $50 billion in cuts, and some Republicans, largely moderates, say they just do not see a public clamoring for federal cutbacks.
"Not one person has come up to me and said we have too much spending," said Representative Peter T. King, Republican of New York.
The House plan, to be approved by the Budget Committee this week, will present lawmakers with some tough decisions through its potential reductions in spending on food stamps and school lunch programs, Medicaid and farm subsidies, among others.
In the Senate, the Republican leadership also urged committee chairmen to look for more than $35 billion in savings, and the $39 billion plan to be debated this week before an expected vote on Thursday is a result.
Its architects avoided some of the most controversial areas, like food stamps, but they would enact changes that could hit Medicare, a program the House did not touch. Their plan also generates more revenue from businesses and banks through new provisions, and it increases spending on student aid. [Emphasis added]
While there certainly is plenty of fat to be cut from the budget, such as the give-aways to the oil companies (who once again reported record-breaking profits this last quarter) and the high-on-the hog pork projects in the highway bill, taking the money from programs that benefit the elderly and the poor just doesn't look like the big win the Republicans are looking for. The moderates of the party recognize that.
Additionally, given the facts that the country is still stuck in Iraq and spending billions (much of which can't be accounted for)there, and the country has just been hit by three catastrophic hurricanes which require massive spending just to put the gulf states back together again, an honest Congress Critter has to admit that those tax cuts for the wealthiest in the nation just don't make sense any longer.
It's time, way past time, for the Democrats to flex their muscles instead of their spines. Not only should they unite (for a change) on the budget cutting, they should start talking loudly to whatever media outlet they can buttonhole about what the Republicans are attempting to do.