Spending Cuts Thanks To The Harriet Miers Nomination?

The Harriet Miers nomination may be a complete political disaster, but it has had at least one beneficial side effect. According to Robert Novak, Republicans in the House are getting so freaked out about the Miers debacle that they’ve actually started cutting spending in an attempt to placate conservatives:

“House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert is an old wrestler, and last Thursday night he used a classic move of his sport by quickly reversing positions. On behalf of the Republican leadership, Hastert went before his colleagues to embrace essentially the same package of spending that two weeks earlier he had scourged conservative House members for proposing. The change was a matter of necessity rather than choice.

It was required to quell the first really serious split in House Republican ranks since the GOP took control of the chamber a decade ago. But the rancor was not limited to Capitol Hill. As House Republicans convened their closed-door conference, 1,000 conservatives were in a foul mood eight blocks away at a black-tie dinner celebrating the 50th anniversary of National Review magazine. They were outraged by the nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court, viewing it less as an aberration by President Bush than a last straw.

In that climate, it was a bare minimum for Republican leaders to back away from their scandalous browbeating two weeks ago of the conservative Republican Study Committee for proposing Operation Offset. So, Hastert echoed the RSC’s plans to offset massive Hurricane Katrina spending with reduced spending elsewhere. The question will be how serious the leadership is in stuffing these offsets down the throats of free-spending senior Republicans who hold positions of power in the House.

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…Hastert’s plan would increase cuts in mandatory spending from $35 billion to “at least” $50 billion, offset disaster spending on a dollar-for-dollar basis, press rescission of existing spending, and eliminate “duplicative, wasteful and/or unnecessary” programs. It was about what Pence and his colleagues proposed two weeks earlier. What’s more, Hastert is pushing the first mid-session amendment of the budget in 28 years.

…Had House members been able to attend the National Review banquet, they would have gotten an earful. While there to honor the magazine’s founder, William F. Buckley Jr., and all he has done for the conservative movement, these faithful conservatives were not shy about privately expressing their intense unhappiness. I could find nobody there who was not disappointed by the Miers nomination, but they also were aggrieved by the record of spending and big government by the Republican president and the Republican Congress. Hastert’s somersault is just the beginning of what is needed to satisfy them.”

Granted, conservatives had to raise holy hell to make it happen and there’s always a chance the House Republicans will backslide, but it looks like there is going to be at least one silver lining to the Miers cloud.

On the other hand, is it a coincidence that these spending cuts are happening now that big spender Tom DeLay is out of a leadership position because of the trumped-up indictment Ronnie Earle has levied against him? While I believe Tom DeLay is innocent of the charges against him and also expect him to beat the rap, this may be another indication that the House would be better off with a different Majority Leader. That would certainly be my preference.

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