WASHINGTON -- In the hour before CPAC speeches kicked off in earnest, anyone who wanted to could get a mimosa and meet new members of Congress. (The price of the mimosa was listening to a pitch from the sponsor, a communications firm of some kind.) NRCC Chairman Pete Sessions presided over the session as new members introduced themselves and hit on a theme: If it wasn't for them, the budget cuts Republicans will propose next would would have missed the $100 billion goal set by the Pledge to America. They forced Republican leaders to the table, after weeks of hearing them give tortured explanations for why they could only cut $35 billion or $60 billion this year.
"We worked all day yesterday, we had meeting after meeting, to get this $100 billion we promised we would cut," said Rep. Billy Long, R-Mo. "As Larry the Cable Guy would say, we got 'er done. Trouble is, $100 billion is like throwing a deck chair off the Titaniic, so we've got to work harder."
"We sat down here, the freshman class did, yesterday morning, and said $100 billion is the minimum," said Rep. Bill Flores, R-Tex. "And what number did you hear yesterday afternoon? $100 billion. That's because the freshman class stood up and said, 'We can get the leadership to where it wants to go.'"
Rep. Dave Schweikert, R-Ariz., went further and told the crowd to help defend them on the substance of the cuts. "How many of you have a Twitter account?" asked Schweikert. "How many have a facebook account? How many of you have friends? A lot of you spent money and time, and bled, to get this Congress back. But the war is going to explode this weekend, when the bad guys start to see what reality is in the numbers. I'm already starting to see my personal e-mail page, my personal facebook account, attacked by teacher's unions and groups that live off of government money."
I talked briefly with Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan. about the big problem with the cuts -- they are not cuts from the 2008 baseline that a lot of Republicans want to get back to. They're cuts from Barack Obama's expected budget.
"$1.5 trillion is the target," said Huelskamp. "$100 billion is a start. It's a down payment. It's a line in the sand, it's us saying we're going to make a start this year. There will be other amendments, and I will support other amendments, that redistribute that further."
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