Yes, the House Republicans are at it again. They just passed by a slim 218-199 margin a go-nowhere budgeting bill that, to judge by the polling that’s out there, will serve mainly to keep opposition researchers for this year’s Democratic campaigns quite busy. Democrats united against the bill, while all but 16 Republicans voted for it.
This time, it’s about the automatic cuts that were baked into the deal that was reached to end the debt limit showdown last summer. In short, if Congress doesn’t act, automatic spending cuts kick in beginning in January, with cuts to both domestic and military spending. To prevent defense cuts, House Republicans voted to slash funding for a variety of other programs, including SNAP (food stamps), health care, Medicaid, CHIP, and even the Child Care Credit for lower-income families.
What’s striking about this bill is that, just like the earlier House Budget Resolution, House Republicans have chosen to vote for unpopular measures even though the bill won’t get past the Senate. At least, it sure looks to me as though the mix here is unpopular. To begin with, as has been pointed out many times, spending cuts are generally popular in the abstract, but unpopular once the talk turns to specifics. When it does, Americans tell pollsters that they really want to avoid spending cuts on things like health care by raising taxes, especially on the rich.
What’s more, the spending Republicans are protecting with today’s vote — on the military — is among the very least popular category of federal spending. As John Sides noted last year, only “culture and the arts” spending polled worse than “military and defense.”
So House Republicans prefer a cut-spending-only approach that is unpopular, and within that they are protecting relatively unpopular defense spending by slashing more-popular spending on social services. And to top it all off, they’re doing it on yet another vote that they don’t need to take, given that it’s going nowhere now that it’s passed the House. Just as they did, of course, by twice passing Paul Ryan’s budgets, cutting funding to Planned Parenthood, and several other votes.
Either House Republicans don’t believe the polling; or they want to excite their base supporters; or they believe their own spin that the public will reward them for trying to do something “serious” about spending; or they want to give Members a vote on steep spending cuts before negotiations with Dems get serious. Whatever it is, all these votes will make for some devastating Dem attack ads in many House races this fall.