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Kai Ryssdal: As the 112th Congress begins and John Boehner takes over as Speaker of the House, Republicans now have the tricky business of actually delivering on campaign promises.
The GOP won, in large part, by promising to cut spending and get the deficit under control. House Republicans are going to trim their own administrative budget by $35 million — that’s millions with an M. So, largely symbolic and not much of a dent in a deficit that is more than a trillion dollars. That’s with a T. But it’s a start.
Republicans have much bigger spending targets in mind, though. But the party’s getting an early lesson in how difficult actually controlling spending’s going to be. Marketplace’s John Dimsdale reports from Washington.
John Dimsdale: Even as he accepted the Speaker’s gavel, John Boehner recognized that keeping order in the House of Representatives will be tough.
John Boehner: Our spending has caught up with us and our debt soon will eclipse the entire size of our national economy.
House Republicans pledge to bring the federal budget down to 2008 levels. But on the rare occasions when they say how they’ll do that, even traditional allies have objected. For example, the Republican caucus voted yesterday to make transportation projects subject to cuts. That sparked an immediate reaction from construction and rail industries. Pete Ruane is the president of the American Road and Transportation Builders Association.
Pete Ruane: Cutting this kind of spending, in this environment, is against the interests of the business community, is against the interests of economic recovery and is poor public policy.
Reaching the Republican budget goal would mean cutting spending by $100 billion this fiscal year. GOP budget staffers are already saying that may be unrealistic, because the fiscal year will be five months old before they can start cutting. Robert Greenstein at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities says cuts that big would have drastic consequences.
Robert Greenstein: That would be the single deepest year-to-year cut in modern U.S. history and coming at a time when the economy is as weak as it is now, it would cost hundreds of thousands of jobs and send the unemployment rate back up.
The new House majority leader, Eric Cantor, says even defense spending will be subject to scrutiny this year, provoking another Republican support group.
In Washington, I’m John Dimsdale for Marketplace.
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