How House Leadership Can Fix Their Mess

Right about now, House Republicans are assembling for their weekly meeting together. Undoubtedly, the mess that remains the undelivered promise to cut $100 billion in the first year is being discussed in full.

Leadership is still spinning with conservatives and a skeptical press, insisting that their “annualized” $58 billion over two years is the same thing as $100 billion in the first year (“not next year, now”). In doing so, Leadership continues to put their rank-and-file members in a difficult situation. “Be a team player” and support Leadership or stand for fiscal responsibility and honor your full pledge to the American people.

Many in the Leadership camp are pointing to an upcoming vote on a Republican Study Committee amendment to cut the full $100 billion. Leadership has committed to an open amendment process, and many have even intimated that they will support it. It will be interesting to see if the amendment passes. At this point, I am skeptical that it will.

Notice, for instance, that yesterday Majority Leader Cantor extinguished yet another brushfire by essentially guaranteeing that the continuing resolution (the vehicle for these cuts) would not fund Obamacare—even though it is still not clear whether the underlying bill will defund the law or whether it will be adopted by amendment. In this case, it doesn’t matter because the Majority Leader of the House of Representatives went out and said it would be so—showing that Leadership is behind the effort.

If proponents of the $100 billion are confident about the RSC amendment passing, then why hasn’t Leadership made similar predictions and why are they wasting precious credibility pushing the “annualized” $58 billion? If proponents are not confident that the amendment passes, then an amendment strategy should be the last resort, and the full slate of cuts need to be included in the underlying bill before it is brought to the floor (it is much harder to take things out of bill, then to add them).

Leadership has an opportunity to take a step back and fix this mess. They could announce today that the House will bring a bill to the floor with the full $100 billion. This would unite House Republicans on one front against all critics who say that the full cuts cannot be done in the face of a $1.5 trillion deficit. And then we could all applaud the House GOP and get on with the business of getting the nation’s fiscal situation under control.