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Republican Voters Want Congress To Cut Spending, Just Not Expensive Programs

Helen Tobin |
October 28, 2010 | 11:21 a.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

U.S. Capitol Hill (Creative Commons)
U.S. Capitol Hill (Creative Commons)
Republican voters want Congress to cut spending, but not at the expense of big social programs or defense. 

The Hill 2010 Midterm Election Poll found that an overwhelming number of Republican voters want Congress to focus on spending cuts, even if it means less pork for their state.  They are not, however, willing to slash expensive programs in order to balance the budget and reduce federal deficits.

Seventy-one percent of like Republican voters polled said Congress should cut spending even if it means fewer projects for their states.  The same poll found those voters balking at the prospect of Social Security or Medicare cuts, two social programs that represent a large portion of the federal budget.  Voters also said they would not accept defense or Homeland security cuts.

This represents a conundrum for GOP leaders, as the programs voters deem nonnegotiable are also the most expensive by far.  Congressional earmarks totaled $11 billion for fiscal 2010, according to the Office of Management and Budget. That is less than 1 percent of the $1.4 trillion annual discretionary budget Congress controls. (It’s less than half a percent of the total $3.5 billion federal budget.)
Social Security spending, however, totals nearly $700 billion annually. Annual Medicare spending is about $500 billion, and annual federal Medicaid spending amounts to about $300 billion.
Additionally, defense spending totals about $700 billion a year, and non-defense homeland security spending is $43 billion. 

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) will call a vote to implement a GOP conference-wide ban on earmarks after the election and predicts he has enough support to succeed.
“Americans don't want to bankrupt our nation for a few pork projects,” DeMint said in a statement to The Hill. “That is why new Republican leaders from around the country are running and winning on a pledge to end the earmark favor factory.
“I will force a vote on a Republican earmark moratorium after the election, and I expect it to pass,” he added. “We're never going to be able to focus on true national priorities like balancing the budget and reforming the tax code until we break Washington's earmark addiction.”

Twenty-five Republican senators voted in March to support a DeMint-sponsored amendment that would have imposed an earmark moratorium on the entire Senate for fiscal 2010 and 2011. If Republicans capture control of the House, it’s likely they will impose a chamber-wide ban on earmarks. 

Accounting for such a small portion of the budget though, it is unclear how a ban on earmarks could significantly cut spending the way Republican voters imagine. Good luck GOP.


Reach reporter Helen Tobin here. Follow her on Twitter @HelenTobin.

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