Ever since they pledged to cut spending by $100 billion during their first year in control of the House, Republican leaders have slowly backpedaled away from that promise. For one thing, it was never entirely precise; the figure was measured against President Obama’s 2011 budget, which was never adopted. (As a result, the government is currently functioning under a continuing resolution set to expire next month.) And Budget Chair Paul Ryan had signaled that the actual cuts would be significantly less. Now Ryan, who has the power to set spending caps, has updated the party’s goals, promising to cut $32 billion from this year’s budget.
That may not pass muster with some of his peers. As I wrote last week, the budget issue that helped vault the party to power has caused headaches now that they have to make good on campaign promises. The Republican Study Committee, which counts about two-thirds of the GOP conference as members, put forth a partial blueprint for slashing $2.5 trillion over the next decade, far deeper (and more painful) incisions than leadership deems viable. Some members may view Ryan’s number as a jump-off point rather than a final figure. “Chairman Ryan’s proposal shows that Republicans are working to help the economy by cutting reckless spending,” Brian Straessle, the RSC’s communications director, told TIME. “Many House members want to see at least $100 billion in non-security savings this fiscal year and will offer amendments to get there if necessary.”
Noting that they’ve already lost a chunk of the fiscal year, GOP leaders have said that their pro-rated cuts still meet prior promises. Ryan called his proposal a “down payment” in a statement issued Thursday. “As House Republicans pledged – and voted to affirm on the House floor last week – the spending limits will restore sanity to a broken budget process and return spending for domestic government agencies to pre-stimulus, pre-bailout levels,” he said. You can read more about the specifics here. Worth pointing out: the $74 billion savings he cites is measured against Obama’s request, not real levels. Democrats note that Ryan’s proposed discretionary spending cuts, which amount to $40 billion, would entail serious reductions to a wide-ranging array of government services. Under the proposal, security spending would increase by $8 billion.