A key House GOP leadership source tells The Examiner that the final version of the House's upcoming spending bill could easily contain far greater cuts than those proposed by leadership so far. The reason is that rank-and-file GOP members are eager to chop spending down in the amendment process, and the leadership will do nothing to discourage them.
House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan recently announced cuts of at least $32 billion from the current level over the rest of fiscal 2011, which is $74 billion less than the president's last budget, which can -- if you want to stretch it -- be interpreted as a $100 billion cut on an annual basis (since it only covers seven months of spending).
But regardless of how the cuts are defined, the leadership will do nothing to prevent members from passing amendments with much deeper cuts -- and in fact the leaders themselves are likely to vote for such amendments on the House floor. This could result in honest-to-goodness cuts much closer to a "real" $100 billion when all is said and done.
The House GOP's trial runs at budget cuts, made through the YouCut program last year, and the voting public's apparent desire for large cuts in government expenditures, have created a level of comfort within the GOP conference for cutting spending in ways they never would have considered during the last Republican congressional majority.
Meanwhile, in the Senate, Democrats are already rallying lobbyists to protect their respective pieces of the pie. However, the Senate's new operating agreements (which provide for more amendments) combined with the political pressure on several vulnerable Senate Democrats, will provide the House Republican majority with a lot of leverage in getting the cuts it wants. Democratic senators such as Claire McCaskill, Mo., Jon Tester, Mont., and Ben Nelson, D, could use the cover of a few votes to cut spending.
Or so we are told. Is this overly optimistic? We'll find out in the next few weeks, because the government needs a new spending bill signed into law by early March or else it will shut down.