GOP Budget Chairman Paul Ryan: "I Can't Tell You The Answer" To Specific Spending Cuts

January 05, 2011 10:29 am ET — Matt Finkelstein

This morning on NBC, incoming House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) discussed the spending cuts that Republicans plan to enact in the new Congress. Rejecting what's been dubbed a "Tea Party-Progressive coalition" to reduce defense spending, Ryan insisted that the Pentagon's budget will not be touched. "You know, we do have a war on terror right now," Ryan said, ignoring both waste in the bloated defense budget and conservative lawmakers who recognize the need to trim it.

As Ryan explained, Republicans intend to return total domestic spending to where it was in 2008 under President Bush. However, asked to identify specific programs that would be affected by the cuts, the supposed fiscal guru balked. "I can't tell you the answer to that," Ryan said, adding, "We're gonna be reducing all domestic discretionary spending. I can't tell you by what amount and which program, but all of it's going to be going down."

MEREDITH VIEIRA (HOST):  You say discretionary spending — give me specifics. Where are you going to cut? Are you gonna cut transportation, education, Medicare — what are you going to cut?

RYAN: That is what is gonna happen in the appropriations process down the road. So I can't tell you the answer to that because, as a budget committee person, we simply lower the cap and then those things go down. We're gonna be reducing all domestic discretionary spending. I can't tell you by what amount and which program, but all of it is going to be going down, and the aggregate amount will be back to 2008 levels before the spending binge occurred.

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Despite his lofty standing in conservative circles, Ryan's inability to name even one actual cut puts him in the same company as other Republican politicians who are more known for branding experiments than policy expertise. Meanwhile, Pat Garofalo explains that "a literal reduction in all programs to the 2008 level is going to take a huge chunk out of vital and popular programs and agencies like Pell Grants, federal highway funding, the National Park Service, federal education funding, cancer research, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the FBI."

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