After the 2012 election, leading Republicans talked a lot about how their party needs to be about more than just spending cuts. At his "Making Life Work" speech, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor tried to move the GOP's focus to "what lies beyond these fiscal debates." Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal warned against becoming "the party of austerity.”
But as articles in both the Washington Post and Politico note today, if you look beyond the rhetoric and focus on the policy, House Republicans are proposing much harsher spending cuts this year than they did last year. On fiscal issues, the party has moved far to the right since the election.
The House GOP's plan to fund the government cuts appropriation levels this year by $55 billion -- which would mean the government gets $33 billion less than in the most recent Republican budget.
"Just last summer," reports Politico's David Rogers, "conservative House Republicans were willing to support $2.3 billion in funding for child care grants to states, for example. The bill now leaves the program at about $2.29 billion from which an additional $115 million will be cut through sequestration."
Soon enough, however, the Republican budget will reflect the newer, even harder-line House GOP. Their last budget didn't balance until almost 2040. But in order to secure conservative votes to delay the debt ceiling for three months, House Speaker John Boehner and Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan promised that the next budget would balance within 10 years.
They're helped in that effort by the "fiscal cliff" deal, which added more than $600 billion in tax revenues to the bottom line. But that's not nearly enough to get them to balance by 2024. And so they're going to need to propose much deeper cuts than in their previous budgets. Ryan is reportedly considering breaking the GOP's promise to keep Medicare unchanged for everyone over age 55.
And then, of course, there's the sequester, which Republicans have gone from attacking during the campaign -- Ryan called the defense cuts "devastating" -- to quasi-embracing after the election.
Ryan was, of course, on the ticket in the 2012 election, and many Republicans interpreted the loss as a message that the GOP's monomaniacal focus on government spending wasn't helping the party. But while that might be a convincing political diagnosis, the reality is that the members of the House Republican Conference remain monomaniacally focused on spending cuts, and they're forcing the GOP even further to the right on the issue.
That means that even as the party's national tacticians try to move away from being the party of spending cuts, they'll ave even harsher and more dramatic spending cuts to answer for.