Despite taking a beating this week in the “fiscal cliff” showdown with President Obama and Democrats, conservative Republicans have vowed to regroup in coming weeks and redouble their efforts to rein in federal spending.
Rep. Devin Nunes, California Republican, who voted against the fiscal cliff deal Tuesday, predicted the next three months are “going to get really difficult” as Congress takes up the next big budget fight: the looming vote to raise the debt ceiling.
“At some point, Congress has to get serious about cutting spending,” he told The Washington Times.
Rep. Scott Garrett, New Jersey Republican, the conservative vice chairman of the House Budget Committee, also voted against the fiscal cliff compromise.
Afterward, he said the passage of the bipartisan deal “certainly cannot be a start of a trend” if Republicans want to have any credibility on spending issues. He predicted voters will sour on the president and Democrats when they learn that the fiscal cliff deal does nothing to cut the deficit and, in fact, increases spending because of measures such as extending unemployment insurance payments.
The bill also did nothing to prevent the expiration of the payroll-tax holiday, which means most Americans will see take-home pay reduced this year by roughly $1,000 per household.
“I think a lot of Americans will find it disconcerting that the deal does not include spending cuts, and Republicans will go into the new year with Americans on their side,” Mr. Garrett said.
Rep. Trent Franks, Arizona Republican, said he expects the highly charged partisan battles to continue for the next four years, but added he still has “great faith in the American people” to elect more fiscally responsible leaders.
Mr. Franks dismissed suggestions the fiscal cliff fight gives Democrats momentum and bargaining leverage in future spending debates.
“Republicans … will have a clear opportunity to articulate that spending cuts should now be the priority — at least in the minds of the reasonable,” he said.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid may have understood that better than most Democrats.
The Nevada Democrat reportedly wanted more concessions from Republicans than Vice President Joseph R. Biden was able to extract in the final fiscal cliff deal.
According to those familiar with the negotiations, Mr. Reid feared that kicking the sequesters — the automatic fiscal cliff cuts to defense and domestic programs that were supposed to be triggered Jan. 1 — down the road two months would simply set up another monumental showdown that would dovetail with raising the debt ceiling.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer, Oregon Democrat, who shares Mr. Reid’s views, told reporters Tuesday he has serious concerns about the fiscal cliff deal and whether it weakens the Democrats’ negotiating position ahead of the upcoming spending debates by taking higher tax rates for higher earners off the table.
Republicans now can train all of their fire over the next few months on Democratic opposition to serious, long-term spending cuts, the Oregon congressman said.