During the “fiscal cliff” battle, I asked several Republican lawmakers why they didn’t push harder for spending cuts in exchange for their historic concession to vote for higher taxes. They invariably answered that they were waiting for the fight over raising the debt ceiling. Then, they promised, Republicans would demand serious cuts, especially in entitlement spending, from President Obama.
Their thinking was this: The GOP was on the wrong side of the polls in the battle over raising taxes on the highest earners. Surveys showed substantial public support for the president and Democrats on that issue. But Republicans are on the right side of the polls in the battle over fiscal responsibility. The GOP, the party trying to put sensible limits on Obama’s runaway spending, is better positioned to make the case for cuts.
“We’re making a hard pivot to spending,” says a senior GOP Senate aide. “Our view is that the revenue question has now been settled. It’s behind us. Now we fight on spending, and we’ve got two good opportunities to do so coming up — the debt limit and the continuing resolution.”