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Budget cuts too small for many conservatives

- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 14, 2011

They don't want to undermine the work of their congressional allies, but leading conservatives and Republican presidential hopefuls are already voicing their displeasure with the spending-cut and budget deals taking shape on Capitol Hill.

Fueling the unhappiness, many say, is a new Congressional Budget Office calculation concluding that, by one measure, the $38 billion in spending cuts touted by GOP House Speaker John A. Boehner in the deal negotiated with President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will actually cut only $352 million in outlays and direct spending for this fiscal year -- or about 1 percent of the claimed budgetary savings.

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's budget blueprint aiming to cut some $6 trillion from federal spending over 10 years has also proved a source of division. Potential GOP presidential nomination candidates have disagreed with each other -- or stayed mum -- on whether to embrace Mr. Ryan's plan.

"It's important that we don't undermine Speaker Boehner's leadership," said American Conservative Union (ACU) Chairman Al Cardenas. "He is a good leader, holding a weak hand in this poker game and we need his leadership for future, even more important fights."

But having tipped his hat to the speaker, Mr. Cardenas then offered a negative review on the deal that Mr. Boehner negotiated with Mr. Reid and that Congress sent to Mr. Obama for signing Thursday.

The ACU, an umbrella organization of conservative groups across the country, "cannot support the claimed $38 billion cut to the $3.8 trillion 2011 budget, which includes 48 percent in debt funding," Mr. Cardenas said.

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, an all-but-declared candidate for president in 2012, earlier this week said House Republicans should kill the spending deal that their speaker and the Democratic Senate leader co-authored.

But Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, also considered a likely 2012 hopeful, called the Boehner-Reid deal as a "single in the first inning" of deficit reduction, saying that, unlike Mr. Pawlenty, he would support the spending package.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a successful businessman, and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum were silent on the deal.

Some Republicans said they saw something suspicious in the timing and mathematics of the Congressional Budget Office announcement.

"I would not like to see that our House GOP leadership got rolled by President Obama and Majority Leader Reid," said Oregon Republican National Committee member Solomon Yue. "But CBO's credibility really makes me to ask why CBO released this $352 million number right after Obama's divisive speech on his plan for deficits and debt?"

Veteran presidential campaign adviser Paul Erickson said CBO projections tended to be "half-right," technically correct but understating the spur to the economy and government revenue from lower taxes and reduced government regulation.

Mr. Yue said he saw a possibility that CBO announcement is "a diversionary tactic to shift the public focus from the criticism of Obama's speech to Boehner's budget deal."

As for Mr. Ryan's proposal, now coming up for debate in the House, Mr. Cardenas said, "As much as we admire his brilliance and work as Budget Committee chairman, we can't support his long term-fix proposal either."

Some normally reserved conservative fiscal hawks ridiculed even the advertised spending cuts in the Boehner-Reid deal.

"The latest CBO revelation outstrips even what the cynics might have predicted," said David Eastman, Alaska GOP regional chairman and Lincoln Fellow at the Claremont Institute. "It now appears that those of us who have long been critical of the numbers cited by congressional spin masters were really steadfast optimists all along."

The $38 billion cut, "if accurate, would amount to less than a 1.1 percent cut," Mr. Cardenas said. "We supported the congressional Republicans' original $100 billion cut proposal and would have reluctantly stayed quiet on a $60 billion cut. But this $38 billion number is inadequate on its face, never mind the concerns raised by the analysis of where these cuts are being allocated."

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