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To Some In GOP, Proposed Cuts Don't Go Far Enough

House Republicans unveil Thursday their proposal to fund the federal government through September, which means big cuts for agencies across the federal government. But for some freshman Republicans, the cuts aren't nearly big enough.

The cuts amount to tens of billions of dollars from the current spending levels, all of them from programs outside the Defense Department and Homeland Security as well as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) said this is just the beginning.

"There's been a lot of talk on our side that members want to cut even further," he said. "And most of us welcome that talk and will be supporting even further cuts."

Committee chairmen and rank-and-file lawmakers will bring their own amendments to the floor next week outlining deeper cuts in some departments. Republicans especially look forward to an amendment prohibiting any money in the budget from being spent on enacting the health care law passed last year.

Why bring these as amendments, some ask, rather than add them to the main bill?

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) suggested that the cuts in the main bill are those on which Republicans could agree. Anything else will be subject to the process of the House.

"Democrats and Republicans ought to have a chance to involve themselves in the process of legislating, and let all members represent all Americans to develop how much cutting do the American people really want," he said.

Boehner and the rest of the GOP leadership are in a tight space. Before November's election, they promised to cut $100 billion from the budget. Some say these cuts come close to that mark, but that's only if you count them as cuts to what President Obama proposed to spend last year — not cuts in what is actually being spent now. These cuts look even smaller when prorated to what has been spent already this fiscal year.

There is a lot of fuzzy math going on around Capitol Hill, but few people beyond the unquestioning faithful believe these cuts get close to the Republicans' goal.

"It's easy to say things on the campaign trail," said House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland.

He says part of Republicans' problem is that they aren't looking at defense or Medicare and Medicaid.

"Pretending that you're going to get a handle on the deficit by focusing on about 14 percent of the budget is not reasonable," he said.

Another problem Republicans have is their message, which Cantor says focuses on jobs and the economy.

The problem is that Republicans have spent most of their time so far working on bills that don't seem to have that focus: repealing health care, ending federal funding for abortion and changing the rules of the House.

Cantor and other Republican leaders are left having to explain repeatedly how what they are doing is related to jobs. Cantor's argument is that Republicans are trying to create a better business environment in America.

"That's why cutting spending in Washington is directly related to economic growth, and that's why the emphasis here, and that's how it is very related to our focus on jobs and the economy," he said.

There's also the Republicans' biggest problem, if they really do want to make such drastic cuts: the Democrats — specifically the Democrats in charge of the Senate and the White House. Although they, too, seem to have some appetite for budget-cutting, their priorities are likely to be different from their Republican colleagues in charge of the House.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Andrea Seabrook covers Capitol Hill as NPR's Congressional Correspondent.