Hoyer: 'I Don't Want to Pinpoint' Any Spending Cuts

By Matt Cover | April 6, 2011 | 4:01am EDT

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md.(AP Photo/Harry Hamburg)

(CNSNews.com) - House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Tuesday he would not "pinpoint" any cuts that Democrats would be willing to make in federal spending, offering only broad figures on an overall reduction.

At Hoyer’s weekly Capitol Hill press briefing on Tuesday, CNSNews.com noted the Democrats’ criticism of the GOP’s proposed cuts and asked Hoyer, “Where specifically would Democrats cut spending? If these cuts that the Republicans are proposing are unacceptable, where specifically are Democrats willing to cut spending?”

Hoyer said, “In point of fact, when Vice President Biden came down – in fact Democrats had been working within the appropriations framework to respond exactly to that question.

“The administration’s made it clear that they thought another $20 billion – which would have been, again, depending upon whether you’re counting from 60 [billion], 40, or whether you’re counting from zero – but if you’re counting from 40, let’s say for the sake of argument we put $30 billion on the table to work towards cutting with an agreement between Republicans and Democrats in the Senate and the House as to where those cuts specifically would be,” he said.

The various budget numbers Hoyer cited stem from how each side scores their own proposals. Democrats count their number based on President Obama’s 2011 budget request, which was never enacted. Essentially, they are offering to cut $30 billion from that request, offering to spend $30 billion less than they had originally wanted to spend.

When asked again for specifics on what Democrats were willing to cut, Hoyer criticized the Republicans for limiting cuts to non-defense discretionary spending, saying “everything” needed to be on the table.

The second-ranking House Democrat did not say, however, which parts of the rest of the federal budget – defense and entitlement spending – Democrats would consider cutting.

“We have in fact made some accommodations on cutting spending but I don’t want to pinpoint those until – if the deal is possible – that that deal is then struck,” said Hoyer.

“From my standpoint, obviously as I’ve told you, looking at the small sliver of the budget is not how you will get from where we are to where we need to be,” he said.

Thus far, neither House Democrats nor Senate Democrats have said where they would be willing to cut spending. Both House and Senate Republicans have endorsed the House-passed H.R. 1, which would cut $61 billion over the remaining fiscal year but which died in the Senate despite receiving the vote of every Republican senator.

In the current Congress, there are 47 Republicans in the Senate and 51 Democrats, plus two Independents who caucus with the Democrats. In the House, there are 242 Republicans and 193 Democrats.

Republicans have said that H.R. 1 remains their foundation for the ongoing budget negotiations while Democrats have chosen to trade only in the broad figures Hoyer cited without detailing what they would be willing to cut.

Democrats – who have called the cuts in H.R. 1 extreme – have not offered their own counter-proposal for spending cuts in either chamber of Congress, a choice that has come under fire from Republicans.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) told reporters on Tuesday that there was no deal after a morning meeting between Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and President Obama.

“There has been no resolution,” Cantor said. “I spoke with the Speaker after his meeting at the White House, and we still don’t have a deal, and we want to continue again to put forward the imperative that we cut spending and that real spending cuts are necessary for us to get our fiscal house in order.”

Republican Conference Chairman Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), appearing with Cantor on Tuesday, said that Republicans, having offered H.R. 1 as a starting point twice, were now waiting on Democrats to offer specifics.

“We put out H.R. 1 once. We’ve put it out twice. We have another bill. We’re still waiting on the first bill [H.R.1] to get out of the Senate,” Hensarling said, referencing the fact that, technically, H.R. 1 was never brought to the Senate floor for a full vote because it failed a procedural cloture vote to end debate.

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