House Majority Leader Eric Cantor on Tuesday pushed back at criticisms Republicans were using fuzzy math to justify a pledge to scale back spending to 2008 levels and to cut $100 billion from the nation’s budget.
But with the 2011 fiscal year already more than four months old, don’t expect all of those cuts and savings this year.
House Republicans promised in September to shed $100 billion from the budget but then last week announced a budget plan to cut basic domestic spending by about $43 billion. Some fiscal conservatives cried fowl, while Democrats accused House GOPers are going back on their word.
But Cantor, while speaking Tuesday with reporters at the Capitol, defended the House GOP budget plan, saying the cuts in essence will be prorated for the remainder of the fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.
“There’s been a lot of discussion in many of the (news) pieces that I’ve seen written on the (budget) number, and the question of what that number is, and does it live up to the commitment? And it absolutely lives up to the commitment,” the Virginia Republican said.
“As I’ve said many times before, this commitment … was about reducing spending levels in a fiscal year to that equivalent to fiscal year ‘08, and that’s what we’ll do. Over a full year we’ll be well over a $100 billion.”
The federal government currently is working under a temporary budget that expires March 4 because Congress failed last year to pass a full budget for fiscal year 2011, which began Oct. 1.
House GOP leaders say their proposed cuts would first appear in an stopgap budget that would fund government agencies through the end of September, and will continue in next year’s budget.
“As you know, we’re five-twelves of the way through the fiscal year by the time the expiration occurs,” Cantor said. “If you look at it on an annualized basis I assure you [the spending cuts] will be over $100 billion.”
Some conservative House members — particularly freshmen who courted voters from the tea party movement — have pushed their party for deeper spending cuts. But Cantor said he welcomed the intra-party discussion.
“I don’t think any of us can remember a time in which we were really bickering about the levels of spending cuts. We were always faced with an environment where we were growing spending,” he said. “So in that way I do think we have begun to make some progress on our commitment to change the culture in Washington.”
Cantor also vowed to fiscally starve the 2010 health care law, saying he expected the Republicans’ budget to be void of any spending for “Obamacare.”
“I expect to see, one way or another, the product coming out of the House to speak to that (and) to preclude any funding to be used for that,” he said.
Cantor added that he is committed to ensuring that no federal dollars are used for abortions.
But with Democrats controlling the Senate, and with President Obama in the White House, there is little chance House Republicans’ will be able to de-fund many programs covered in the law.