Earlier, I noted that the Republican spending cut plan was thankfully moving in the right direction, but that it was not yet where it needed to be to comply with the Pledge to America. In the view of many conservatives, that pledge was clear with respect to how the $100 billion number would be arrived at, especially with respect to defense spending. Republicans promised not to rely on defense cuts to meet their goal, but now Republican leadership is pushing back.
Leadership's argument is that the Pledge never specifically said "nonsecurity," but rather "troops" and "veterans" and thus, the latest proposal from the Appropriations Committee meets the $100 billion target as promised. Here is the actual text of the language in question from Page 8 of the Pledge:
With common-sense exceptions for seniors, Veterans, and our troops, we will roll back government spending to pre-stimulus, prebailout levels, saving us at least $100 billion in the first year alone and putting us on a path to balance the budget and pay down the debt.
Here is the argument on why the Pledge is based on $100 billion in non-defense cuts.
1) Most importantly, the $100 billion was derived from the policy goal of cutting spending back to the enacted FY08 level ("pre-stimulus, prebailout"). The difference between the proposed FY11 level ($478 billion) and the enacted FY08 level ($378 billion) of the 9 non-security appropriations subcommittees, EXCLUDING the 3 security appropriations subcommittees (defense, homeland security, and military construction/VA), is $100 billion.
2) "Troops" and "veterans" are clearly shorthand for saying non-defense or non-security spending. The American people hear "troops," and they think it means everything that is needed to provide for a strong national defense. Similarly, the Pledge doesn't say Social Security or Medicare, but of course that is what is meant by "seniors."
3) To our knowledge, the Appropriations Committee has not publicly released the $16 billion in security cuts that they are relying on to get to $100 billion. They have specified that of that $16 billion in cuts $13.2 are within the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee and $1.3 billion in cuts are to programs within the Military Construction-Veterans Affairs Appropriations Subcommittee. Are we to believe that these cuts have no impact on our nation's troops and veterans at all?
4) Regardless, House Republicans based their Pledge on the premise that they would under promise and over deliver. It is time to over deliver.
House Leadership and the Appropriations Committee deserve praise for moving towardtheir $100 billion pledge, but they are not there yet. They're leaving $16 billion on the table in non-defense cuts.