On The Hill, Life Imitates Art

Remember the storyline in the movie “Dave,” where Kevin Kline calls in his accountant friend (Charles Grodin) when he needs to cut the federal budget to save the a child care program the First Lady (Sigourney Weaver) supports?

Something akin to that is playing out on Capital Hill.

In this case the Dave is the Republican Study Group, while Frank Langella’s role is being played by Rep. Tom DeLay.

From this yesterdays Washington Post.

Beginning this week, the House GOP lawmakers will take steps to cut as much as $50 billion from the fiscal 2006 budget for health care for the poor, food stamps and farm supports, as well as considering across-the-board cuts in other programs. Only last month, then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (Tex.) and other GOP leaders quashed demands within their party for budget cuts to pay for the soaring cost of hurricane relief.

DeLay told a packed room of reporters on Sept. 13 that 11 years of Republican rule had already pared down the federal budget “pretty good.” If lawmakers had suggestions for cuts, DeLay said he would listen, but he was not offering anything up.

But faced with a revolt among many conservatives sharply critical of him for resisting spending cuts, DeLay three weeks later told a closed meeting of the House Republican Conference, “I failed you,” according to a number of House members and GOP aides. Then, in a nod to the most hard-core conservatives, DeLay volunteered, “You guys filled a void in the leadership.”

The abrupt shift reflects a changed political dynamic in the House in which a faction of fiscal conservatives — known as the Republican Study Committee, or RSC — has gained the upper hand because of DeLay’s criminal indictment in Texas, widespread criticism of the Republicans’ handling of Hurricane Katrina, and uncertainty over the future of the leadership, according to lawmakers and aides.DeLay basically laid down the challenge to cut the pork – a challenge he as a party leader should be leading.

Whatever his legal status come January, his return to leadership is most assuredly not secure if he intends to lean closer philosophically to Tip O’Neil than Newt Gingrich.

Update: With the 2005 deficits already down 22%, and focus on fiscal conservatism possibly returning, things just may be looking a little rosier for financial conservatives dismayed by years of Congress spending like “drunken sailors.”

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