By Charles S. Clark
Newly empowered Republicans will spend much of the next Congress laying down rhetorical markers on federal spending cuts that, while committing them to more specifics than were provided during the campaign, aren't likely to become law, panelists at a Brookings Institution post-midterm election conference said on Friday.
"House Republicans know they are still the opposition, but they can establish an agenda that will actually cut spending" and set themselves up for the 2012 campaign, said Ron Haskins, a Brookings senior fellow in economic studies who was on the Ways and Means Committee staff during the Republican takeover after the 1994 elections.
Haskins predicted proposals to cut as much as $100 billion (not much in a $14 trillion economy, he hastened to add) would be rolled out weekly by the House leaders. He acknowledged that this diverse incoming freshman class of Tea Party candidates and independents will be tough for presumed Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to corral in the way Newt Gingrich eventually did after the federal government shutdown in 1995.
In the lemons-into-lemonade category, federal agencies should respond to the Obama administration's loss of clout in Congress by finding more ways to work with states to improve federal-state relations in cost sharing and public-private partnerships to spur regional job creation, added Amy Liu, deputy director and senior fellow at the Brookings metropolitan policy program.