Budget Battles: The Big Questions


Mark Halperin’s answers in this week of TIME:

Are congressional Republicans really prepared to make massive budget cuts?

They claim they are, and now they have the chance to prove it. From chopping spending for the current fiscal year to writing a GOP budget for the next one, Republicans must deliver the kind of deep reductions they say were negligently absent from President Obama’s proposal.

What role are Tea Partyers and deficit hawks playing?

House Speaker John Boehner and other GOP leaders have already shown that they underestimated the appetite for cuts among conservative new members and have accepted tens of billions of dollars in added proposed savings to placate them. More cuts are promised for later this year. But Boehner and company also worry about the wrath of moderate voters and constituents who will lose federal largesse.

So what happens next?

Republicans feel they have a mandate for deep spending cuts overall, but they lack specifics on what to slash and are still testing what’s politically feasible. Other minefields include intraparty divisions over whether to touch the defense budget, Tea Party intransigence on a looming vote to raise the federal debt ceiling and the threat of a government shutdown if a budget deal can’t be reached with the White House. Boehner and Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell are cool customers, but the coming budget battles of 2011 will keep them on their toes.


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