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Monday, October 17, 2005

House Republicans Embrace Cuts to Social Services

In the wake of hurricane Katrina the GOP-controlled House have moved to make cuts in a number of programs in order to pay for the rebuild.

There was no apparent stomach for the GOP members to propose rolling back some of the tax cuts that were lavished on the top 2% of taxpayers by the GOP-controlled Congress.

Instead, the public was treated to a variety of press conferences and "events"on the steps of the Capital where members of the House proposed that spending should be cut in programs such as Medicare, food stamps, jobs training programs, PBS and farm subsidies.

The most vocal of those proposing the cuts have been members of the Republican Study Committee
(RSC), who have been stymied under the DeLay leadership.

Tom DeLay (R-TX) has not been eager to embrace the program cuts that the "ideological purists" have wanted, perhaps seeing the prospect of huge cuts in programs pushed too quickly as a danger to the dominance of the GOP in the House and Senate. If the public were to view the party as being too quick to cut the poor, the working poor and the elderly adrift without any resources it could affect the vote in the midterm..

Washington Post brings us the story that the RSC is taking advantage of the lull in leadership in the House, with Delay having to step down from his leadership post due to his impending legal battles in Texas.

Earlier in the month, before Delay had to step down, he tried to squash any big moves to offset the spending for the hurricane relief:

"On Sept... 13, DeLay suggested that "after 11 years of Republican majority, we've pared [the government] down pretty good." Then he issued what conservatives took as a challenge."My answer to those that want to offset the spending is, 'Sure, bring me the offsets,' " he said. "I will be glad to do it, but no one has been able to come up with any yet."

After the RSC announced, without clearing with the House leadership, a news conference to showcase their own package of cuts for the budget offsets to disaster relief spending, Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN), chairman of the RSC, was an attendee at a closed-door meeting of the House leadership on 9/13/05.

"That afternoon, Pence attended a leadership meeting in Hastert's conference room, where he would get an earful, according to several leadership aides. It was one thing to suggest that Republicans consider budget cuts to pay for Katrina relief, but it was quite another to call a news conference, the leaders told Pence. And to suggest that the RSC was reining in a free-spending party was out of bounds. The deficit for 2005 was coming in nearly $100 billion below initial forecasts, they said, and GOP leaders that spring had muscled through Congress a budget blueprint that ordered up $35 billion in entitlement cuts over five years, the first such effort since 1997."

However, when Delay had to step down on Sept 28, the House dynamic changed. The RSC used to opportunity to pressure the GOP leadership to push for more than the previously aimed for cuts in social programs.

Whether this was a wise move has yet to be seen.

The American public is growing weary of the "take no prisoners" attitude so prevalent in both parties, but much more vocal in the GOP than among Democrats, with more Democrats seeming to give the appearance of "going along to get along," (which is viewed by the ideologs on the left as "wimping out.").

This move by the RSC, born more of arrogance than ideology, has the great potential to hurt the GOP in the upcoming midterm elections, in both the House and the Senate, as most voters view the players as just two (the major parties) rather than four (both parties, in both chambers).

This may be the move that the Democrats, both left and center, need to push their own base to the polls. With the narrowness of the 2004 elections, decided more by who could get more voters from their base to the polls than by successfully wooing the undecided voters, any move by the GOP that could build the anger of the left and center-left cold move those angered voters to the polls.

This arrogance, and dependence on voter apathy on the part of the left, is akin to getting a job that has lots of overtime, and learning to live on that extra income as a standard.

When the extra income gets pulled for any reason, the landing can be pretty hard.


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