“Dick says everything has to be on the table, but under their plan, nothing’s on the table,” said House Republican Conference Chairman Jeb Hensarling, Texas Republican.
Either way, both parties are talking about slight reductions compared with the overall size of spending. Discretionary spending is projected to reach $1.28 trillion in 2011, and overall spending, which includes Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and debt service, is projected to reach $3.82 trillion.
In the important public relations battle, Democrats think they have the upper hand, particularly after an NBC-Wall Street Journal poll, taken in late February and released last week, found Americans generally opposed to taking on big drivers of deficits, such as Medicaid and Medicare.
Just 32 percent said they would be OK with trimming Medicaid funding, and just 23 percent said they would accept reduced spending on Medicare. Medicaid is the federal-state health program for the poor, while Medicare is the federal program open to everyone 65 and older.
Republicans, though, were powered to big wins in last year’s election by tea party voters, who say the country’s debt and deficits are unsustainable and who insist on deep cuts that begin now.
Rep. Michele Bachmann, Minnesota Republican and chairwoman of the House Tea Party Caucus, said tea party views span party ideology.
“The political left has been very afraid of the tea party movement, because it is not necessarily political. It’s not Democrats or Republicans. It’s made up of a very broad-based coalition,” she said. “They believe that we’re taxed enough already. The government shouldn’t spend more money than what it’s taking in.”
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Stephen Dinan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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