Capitol Hill Bureau Chief
With polls showing Americans deeply anxious about federal deficits and frustrated with increased federal spending, House Republicans have launched a website for people to vote to cut spending for one of five federal programs.
The program, called YouCut
, lists five federal programs as candidates for elimination, described in Republican friendly lingo: taxpayer-subsidized union activities; the presidential election fund; a HUD program for doctoral dissertations; new, non-reformed welfare programs; and block grants for wealthier communities.
After the votes are tallied online next week, Republicans say they'll introduce a bill on the House floor to cut the program that gets the most votes.
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the top Republican on the House Budget Committee and one of the Republicans behind the idea, said the purpose of the Web site is to involve voters in the budget process. "We want to engage the American people in a process to help us change the culture of spending here in Washington," Ryan said.
But even if all five programs on the GOP site are eliminated, the savings from the program would amount to only $6 billion out of the $3.5 trillion federal budget. The real spending problem, experts warn, is embedded in the two-thirds of the budget dedicated to non-discretionary entitlement programs, including Social Security and Medicare.
Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) declined this week to suggest any large federal programs for cuts, but he said that the website is just a start to a new approach to federal spending by Republicans. "Cuts are not always popular, but that's why we're taking this step." he said. "It is time for us to be adults."
House Minority Leader John Boehner promised Thursday that if Republicans take control of the House in November, he will make significant cuts to federal spending levels.
"Quite frankly," Boehner said, the current federal spending "is just scaring the hell out of them."
Although he sharply criticized President Obama and Democrats in Congress for increasing the national debt under their leadership, he also acknowledged Thursday that Republicans were guilty of racking up significant federal deficits when they were in charge as recently as 2006.
But, he said, "Republicans have learned our lesson. We have to get very serious about the spending binge that's going on here."