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House GOP looks for additional spending cuts

From NBC's Shawna Thomas and Luke Russert
It looks like it could be another day before House Republicans comes out with their actual cuts to this year's budget, and those cuts could be bigger than previously announced. The House Appropriations Committee was supposed to have posted the continuing resolution (CR) language on its Web site today, but in its place is a statement from Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) reaffirming the GOP’s promise to cut “$100 billion from the continuing resolution.”

The statement reads, “After meeting with my subcommittee chairs, we have determined that the CR can and will reach a total of $100 billion in cuts compared to the President’s request immediately -- fully meeting the goal outlined in the Republican ‘Pledge to America’ in one fell swoop. Our intent is to make deep but manageable cuts in nearly every area of government, leaving no stone unturned and allowing no agency or program to be held sacred.”

However, the $100 billion number could become smaller when the cuts are compared to the government current actual spending levels.

Any way it goes, this is a sign that the GOP is working hard to come up with a much bigger number than what had already been announced. Apparently, everything is on the table now with multiple aides confirming that even “security” spending is on the chopping block. “We will make $100 billion in discretionary cuts, while making common sense exceptions for our troops and veterans -- just as the Pledge promises.” The aide continued, “Yes, some cuts will come from “security” categories.”  

As for the new timing of the CR language, a leadership aide said, "Our goal is for it to come out on Friday." Rogers statement noted that more information will be made available “when the bill is formally introduced.” It did not specify a date.

Speaker John Boehner, when asked about the CR’s progress earlier today, answered calmly, "We're working with our members and our committee chairman to achieve the largest cut possible." When pressed he proceeded to repeat a similar line but seemed confident that the CR would come to the floor next week. 

Boehner was also asked whether this was the right time to cut funding to programs like WIC, the Women, Infants and Children program that provides nutrition “at no charge to low-income pregnant, postpartum, and breastfeeding women; and infants and children." His response, "Everything is on the table. We're broke. Let's be honest with ourselves. It's time for Washington to get serious and that's exactly what the American people expect of us."

Based on the numbers provided yesterday, it looks like WIC could take about a 10% hit to their budget. 

(Crunching the numbers: WIC's budget in FY2010 was $7.3 billion and $6.9 billion in FY2009. The president asked for $7.6 billion for 2011, so the proposed cut of $758 million would be about 10%.)

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi also was asked about the delay, and she pointed to Republican infighting as a possible cause. "We had hoped to receive the numbers this morning so that we could make some comment." She continued, "Now because of the disarray in the Republican party, and this is only one manifestation of it, they will be taking another day. I think they're finding out is that it's easier to talk about cutting then it is to actually do it."

Pelosi also said that eliminating $100 billion, "really cuts to the heart of who we are as a county. Unless they're putting everything on the table." 

And with security spending not being sacred anymore, that begs the question what will be cut from that category. Boehner was asked specifically about the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) Extra Engine that Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said he doesn't want funded.  The reporter asked if it was a “no brainer” to defund that as well as some ethanol programs. Boehner responded, "Some of the things that you're mentioning are not in the discretionary spending pot... I remind you that we've been in the majority now five weeks. We're going to have a long year. You are going to see more spending cuts come out of this Congress than any Congress in the history of this country."

And some of those large cuts may become very visible tomorrow. But will that be large enough to appease Tea Party and Republican Study Committee members who have publicly complained for the last few weeks that leadership hasn’t been serious about getting the budget under control?