What Do Republicans Want to Cut?

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Republicans may have found a blueprint for slashing government spending: Politico‘s David Rodgers reports that the GOP is hoping for an eventual return to George W. Bush’s 2008 budget. The cuts to appropriations alone would be “nearly $100 billion less than Obama’s 2011 request and $84 billion, or 18 percent, below current levels.”

Republicans had originally aimed for a “back-to-Bush” budget in 2012, but the Democrats’ failure to pass a 2011 budget in December could give them a head start. Congress must now vote on a new budget in March, and the House’s newly empowered GOP majority has loudly trumpeted its pledge to slash spending and has already made it harder for certain spending increases to go through. What are they likely to go after? Bush’s final budget gives some clues, Rodgers explains:

[F]or many departments and agencies, including the State Department, Environmental Protection Agency, Small Business Administration and Indian Health Service, the Bush 2008 spending levels mean reductions of far larger than 18 percent.

The maximum Pell Grant for low-income college students, an Obama priority, could drop 24 percent below what it is today. Federal support for training new nurses — a source of jobs and a prerequisite for expanded health care — would be 36 percent less than current spending and half of what Obama asked for in his 2011 budget.

What’s less likely to be touched? Bush’s 2008 budget mostly excludes the departments of Defense, Homeland Security, and Veterans Affairs, and it doesn’t include Pentagon spending. Interestingly, though, there are signs that the GOP could be under pressure to go after even sacrosanct military spending. Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the House majority whip, vowed last week to keep defense cuts “on the table.” And on Thursday, the center-left New America Foundation released a poll showing that 67 percent of conservatives and tea-party supporters were worried about the cost of the war in Afghanistan.

But whether the Republican Party is willing—or able—to deliver on its budget-slashing promises any time soon is another question. Already, the House GOP has scaled back its promise to cut $100 billion in spending in the first year, and individual members demurred from describing any specific cuts they’d make. And any budget would also have to make its way pass the Democrat-controlled Senate. For the moment, at least, the GOP’s hope for a Bush-era budget will probably remain a pipe dream.

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