Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) took to CNN Sunday to bash Democrats’ “gargantuan spending spree,” the latest in a long line of Republican attacks over the deficit that began almost immediately after President Obama’s inauguration. But what, exactly, would the GOP do to reduce the substantial budget shortfall–a much of it coming from the sea of red ink President Bush bequeathed to President Obama?
The answer: Who knows?
That, of course is nothing new — talking about belt-tightening in the broad sense is always easier than throwing out specifics. Since Sen. Jon Kyl’s clarification on Fox News earlier this month that extending unemployment benefits is fiscally dangerous but deficit-financed tax cuts to the tune of $678 billion are just gravy, Republicans have been under new pressure to clarify how exactly they intend to reduce the national debt. Sen. Pete Sessions’ (R-TX) appeared Sunday on Meet The Press and under persistent questioning from David Gregory, he failed to offer any specific examples of what spending programs the GOP would cut.
This evasion probably won’t keep them from being elected or reelected, it hasn’t in the past. And if they should regain the majority and are asked to present a budget they’ve painted themselves into a corner. They’ve signed pledges to not increase taxes, they’ve endorsed an array of new tax cuts that blow a further hole in the budget.
The GOP recently rebranded itself as the holy defender of Medicare during the health care debate, putting another huge chunk of the budget out of play. Let’s assume that Defense Spending is an unlikely target as well. That pretty much leaves Social Security and a handful of popular spending programs like SCHIP on the block, which are as politically disastrous targets as they come.
Pinned down by a conservative base demanding drastic spending reductions AND tax cuts, it seems extremely unlikely a Republican House would be able to produce a workable budget that would get past the president’s desk, leading some observers — most notably Paul Krugman — to predict a government shutdown.