WASHINGTON — Signaling how difficult it will be for the Republican Party to live up to its campaign promises of cutting spending while preserving the Bush tax cuts and not cutting benefits for seniors, Tea Party favorites Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and Sen.-elect Rand Paul (R-Ky.) struggled on Sunday to actually name any specific cuts they plan on making.
On ABC’s “This Week,” Christiane Amanpour repeatedly pressed Paul to move beyond “slogans and platitudes” to “direct information” on how the Republican Party will balance the budget and cut the deficit.
Paul immediately reiterated that he was going to push for a balanced budget amendment and said that cuts needed to come from across the board — including defense spending. Whenever Amanpour asked whether a specific program — such as Medicare, Social Security and health care — would be cut, Paul simply kept reiterating that he was going to be looking “across the board.” He was unable, however, to actually name anything significant that would be on the chopping block:
AMANPOUR: Give me one specific cut, Senator-elect.
PAUL: All across the board.
AMANPOUR: One significant one. No, but you can’t just keep saying all across the board.
PAUL: Well, no, I can, because I’m going to look at every program, every program. But I would freeze federal hiring. I would maybe reduce federal employees by 10 percent. I’d probably reduce their wages by 10 percent. The average federal employee makes $120,000 a year. The average private employee makes $60,000 a year. Let’s get them more in line, and let’s find savings. Let’s hire no new federal workers.
AMANPOUR: Pay for soldiers? Would you cut that?
PAUL: I think that’s something that you can’t do. I don’t think —
AMANPOUR: You cannot do? [...]
AMANPOUR: So, again, to talk about the debt and to talk about taxes, there seems to be, again, just so much sort of generalities, for want of a better word. [...]
PAUL: Well, the thing is that you can call it a generality, but what if — what if I were president and I said to you, Tomorrow, we’re going to have a 5 percent cut across the board in everything? That’s not a generality, but there are thousands of programs. If you say, Well, what are all the specifics? There are books written on all the specifics. There’s a book by Christopher Edwards, downsizing government, goes through every program. That’s what it will take. It’s a very detailed analysis.
DeMint had a similar experience on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” When asked by host David Gregory where the American people should be prepared to sacrifice in order to cut the deficit, DeMint said, “I don’t think the American people are going to have to sacrifice as much as the government bureaucrats who get paid about twice what the American worker does. First of all, we just need to return to pre-Obama levels of spending in 2008. We need to cut earmarks so people can stop taking home the bacon, we need to defund Obamacare and then we need to look at the entitlement programs, such as the way Paul Ryan has done in the House with his Road to America’s Future.”
When Gregory pointed out that going back to 2008 spending levels won’t get anywhere close to balancing the budget, he asked whether everything would be on the table. DeMint said he opposed cutting Social Security. “If we can just cut the administrative waste, we can cut hundreds of billions of dollars a year at the federal level. We need to keep our promises to seniors, David, and cutting benefits to seniors is not on the table.” DeMint also said that cutting benefits for veterans is out.
Both DeMint and Paul said they oppose raising the debt ceiling, a procedure that Congress — including Republicans — do routinely.
Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), who is likely to become the next House Majority Leader, refused to say on “Fox News Sunday” that he would make sure the government doesn’t go into default on its debt, stating that it would be President Obama’s fault if it does. “The president’s got a responsibility as much or more so than Congress to make sure that we are continuing to function in a way that the people want,” he said.
He has, however, left the door open to the GOP possibly supporting a raising of the debt ceiling by saying that the party will try to “demonstrate a commitment to the fiscal discipline and an established track record by the time that vote comes up.”
Republicans — including Sen. John Cornyn (Tex.) and Rep. Pete Sessions (Tex.) — have consistently been unable to name specific cuts they will make to the budget in order to offset an extension of the Bush tax cuts. On Oct. 3, Paul also said that he didn’t see extending the Bush tax cuts as “a cost to government.”