House GOP trips up on spending cut figure it could have corrected long ago

But Republicans would have known this would happen way back in the fall when they first started using the $100 billion figure. That raises the question of why GOP communications shops did not start using a different figure weeks ago, at the very least, and explaining why it had changed. Instead, it popped up on the day that the national spotlight on them was brightest.

Some Republicans blamed the fact that Democrats failed to pass a budget last fall – a serious abdication of responsibility in its own right – and said it kept Republicans in such uncertainty that it was hard to accurately forecast what the true impact of their spending cuts would be.

“There was a lot of waiting to see what was going to happen and then a lot of catching up once we did know,” one House Republican leadership aide said.

But Doug Thornell, spokesman for Rep. Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat from Maryland who is the ranking member on the House Budget Committee, said that if the GOP “wanted to blame us they should have done it a long time ago and stopped using the 100 billion number, but they didn’t.”

“I think they are scrambling for excuses,” Thornell said. “It begs the question, what other key promises are they going to break once their rhetoric runs into reality?”

And the GOP explanation flew in the face of what sticks out to regular voters. Spending levels are vague and amorphous political talk to most, and pointing the finger at the other guy rarely works. But figures in the billions and tens of billions of dollars are more concrete.

“My opinion [is] they didn’t really think about whether it was 2011 or 2012. They didn’t really care,” Meckler said. “They just wanted election year talking points. Truly astounding.”

Fortunately for Boehner and Republican leaders, none of the freshman GOP House members who spoke with TheDC on Wednesday expressed outright frustration with the change.

TheDC spoke with Tim Scott of South Carolina, Renee Ellmers of North Carolina, Ben Quayle of Arizona, Dan Benishek of Michigan, and Lou Barletta of Pennsylvania. The closest any of them came to showing irritation with the change in the GOP’s spending cut commitment was when Ellmers rolled her eyes upon hearing a question about it.

“I don’t want to downplay what we’re looking at with numbers and amounts,” Ellmers said. “What I can say is we are very committed to doing something. It’s the only way we’re going to turn things around.”

Ellmers added: “I really hate when we put numbers on things, because then it seems like if you didn’t achieve it you hadn’t met your goal. The idea here, I believe, is to cut spending.”