In his first interview since being sworn-in as House Speaker, John Boehner struggled to identify budget cuts that could be made to reduce government spending. The one-on-one with NBC News' Brian Williams aired on Thursday night.
Asked to name a specific program that could be trimmed from the fiscal plan, Boehner responded, "I don't think I have one off the top of my head." However, the newly-minted speaker added, "There is no part of this government that should be sacred."
"I believe there's room, to find savings in the Department of Defense," explained the Ohio Republican. "There are a lot of needs at the Department of Defense. And I think Secretary Gates has a reasonable plan to allow the service chiefs to go in there and root out wasteful spending -- so they can find the money that they're going to need to make sure that we have the weapons of the future."
The remarks from Boehner come in the aftermath of the 2010 midterm election season in which Republicans ran on bold promises of plans to reduce government spending. However, just one day after the GOP rose to power in the lower congressional chamber, the authenticity of those vows is already being called into question.
The AP reports on the widely-touted Republican promise to cut spending and the likelihood voters can expect to see it fulfilled:
CUT SPENDING: "We will roll back government spending to pre-stimulus, pre-bailout levels, saving us at least $100 billion in the first year alone," the GOP pledge stated.
It turns out $100 billion is way out of reach.
By the time the current stopgap spending bill expires March 4, five months of the budget year - which began Oct. 1 - will have passed. Republicans acknowledge it's unrealistic to force even deeper cuts for the rest of the budget year to make up for money that's already been spent at the current, higher levels.
What is more, Republicans juiced up the $100 billion promise in the first place by using as their starting point President Barack Obama's $1.128 trillion budget request, a theoretical figure that was never approved by Congress.
Republicans are bristling at accusations that they're backtracking from the $100 billion promise even as they concede they can't pull it off. Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said Republicans will set spending limits "for the remainder" of the budget year at levels in effect before the 2009 stimulus.
Ryan, the newly-minted House Budget Committee Chairman who is seen by many as a rising Republican star, also faltered when asked to name specific cuts that could be made to reduce government spending earlier this week.
Bloomberg News reports that Boehner on Thursday rejected criticism suggesting Republicans may fall short in achieving their promise to slash the federal budget.
"We will meet our commitment to the pledge in this calendar year," explained Boehner to reporters. "There's no ifs, ands or buts about it."
In their prime time exchange, Williams asked the House Speaker to identify the "bare minimum" the American public can expect from government when it comes to the spending matter. Here's how the Republican leader responded:
Well, clearly, I believe in the safety net. You know, we live in a competitive society. We live in a capitalist society. For those who can compete and do well, fine. Some Americans can't compete. I think we have a responsibility as a people to help those who can't compete. But do we have a responsibility to help those who won't compete? I would have serious doubts about that.
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