House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and freshman Reps. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.), Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) and Austin Scott (R-Ga.) unveiled the new phase of the program at a Capitol news conference.
The YouCut program, which was introduced by House Republicans in the last Congress, allows voters to go online and choose from a list of proposed programs to cut; users can also make their own suggestions for cuts.
“This year the members of the freshman class will be building on this successful framework that has already been put forward by Leader Cantor, and we are going to be able to have the American people champion these spending cuts over the next 19 weeks that we’re in session,” Ellmers said.
“Three spending cuts will be chosen by the majority leader and the freshman class sponsor,” she added. “Each freshman will have an opportunity each time to do this. And we will be able to move forward with legislation. There will be a YouCut bill each time that will go through committee and that can be tracked on the Web site.”
So far during the 112th Congress, Cantor said, a YouCut proposal has been brought to the House floor every week the chamber has been in session – although not all of them have passed. (In February, House Republican leaders attempted to fast-track a YouCut measure that would have cut $100 million in United Nations funding; the bill failed to receive the two-thirds necessary for passage.)
The latest iteration of the program differs from the previous one in that it involves members of the House GOP freshman class. One freshman will be tapped to sponsor and bring to the floor each YouCut bill that gets selected by voters online.
Democrats have criticized the program as a political gimmick, noting that its proposed cuts often amount to mere fractions of a percent of the federal deficit. Critics have also pointed to the fact that very few, if any, of the YouCut proposals actually make their way over to the Senate and eventually into law.
Cantor on Wednesday dismissed criticism that the program does not produce results, arguing that the Senate in general often does not take up any legislation passed by the lower chamber.
“I would say that that criticism would often apply to much of what occurs in the Capitol, because the Senate often serves as a cul-de-sac for good ideas and good legislation,” Cantor said. “But the purpose of YouCut again is to engage in the social media, to involve more Americans in this process, because we believe that what we’re about is to reflect the common-sense nature of the American people.”
In addition to Republicans’ efforts to reach out to voters online, a House Democrat also on Wednesday resorted to some crowd-sourcing of his own: Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), who may be redistricted out of his House seat, wrote a letter to supporters asking them to suggest other districts – in several other states – in which they think he should run.
“I’ve been approached by supporters across the country -- from Washington to Maine -- to explore options outside Ohio should redistricting force me out of my current district. ... Do you have a comment or idea I should consider?” Kucinich wrote in the letter. “Is there a option you would like me to explore? If so, let me know by clicking here.”