Despite a traditional reluctance among Republicans to reduce the military budget and a Congress-wide aversion to touching entitlement spending, Majority-leader designate Eric Cantor said Tuesday that he is willing to lead the party toward slashing funding from both.
Appearing on NBC’s “The Today Show,” Cantor told Matt Lauer that spending cuts in defense and entitlements are “on the table.”
“Are you willing to perhaps raise the Social Security retirement age?,” Lauer asked Cantor Tuesday morning. “Are you willing to make cuts in Medicare? Are you willing to make cuts in defense spending? Are any of those issues on the table?”
“I think, you know, we’ve got to have everything on the table right now,” Cantor said. “That’s also what we heard from the people on November 2. … Everything should be on the table. I don’t think we should leave any stone unturned while we’re trying to do what most have in this country have done, which is tighten the belt, which is to try and live within our means.”
That’s a tall order. Only a handful of Republicans have said on the record that they would be open to consider cutting defense spending, which is the largest discretionary portion of the federal budget.
The GOP’s “Pledge to America” unveiled in September outlined a number of budget-cutting measures, but left defense untouched. While more than 50 members co-signed a letter in October that urged the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform to consider cutting the defense budget, only two Republican House members, Ron Paul of Texas and Walter Jones of North Carolina, put their names on the list.
As for entitlement spending, which includes Medicare and Social Security, there is more support among the party for cuts and changes to the programs.
A draft of the White House debt commission report released earlier this month recommended raising the retirement age for Social Security and called for a cap on income that can be taxed to pay for the program. The bi-partisan commission plans to vote on final acceptance of the report’s recommendations later this week.