Midway between the 2012 and 2014 election campaigns, moderate Republican conservatives are beginning to foment a revolt of their own — a backlash to anti-spending tea party shrillness as budget cuts begin to significantly shrink defense and domestic programs.
Tea party forces may have dominated the House GOP’s approach to the budget so far, but pragmatists in the party have served notice they won’t stand idly by for indiscriminate spending cuts to politically popular community development grants, education programs and even Amtrak.
Voting in the spring for the tea party budget developed by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who was Mitt Romney’s vice presidential running mate last year, was one thing. But as long as a Democrat occupies the White House, Ryan’s budget is little more than a nonbinding wish list — cutting Medicaid, Medicare and food stamps and slashing budgets for domestic agencies funded annually through appropriations bills.
Many tenured Republicans, particularly members of the House Appropriations Committee, have viewed Ryan’s sweeping cuts as unworkable all along. When more than $4 billion in entirely new cuts came to the House floor in the form of an actual bill for funding transportation and housing programs, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, confronted shaky support from less ardently conservative Republicans and decided to pull the $44 billion package on July 31.
That sparked a frustrated outburst from the committee chairman, Rep. Harold Rogers, R-Ky. He called for abandoning the Ryan budget and starting bipartisan negotiations that would provide appropriators with “a realistic spending level to fund the government in a responsible — and attainable — way.”