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Frustrated with what they describe as wasteful government spending at a time of sizable budget shortfalls, GOP lawmakers are taking to the Internet to drum up popular opposition to programs they'd like to see stripped out of the federal budget.
Minority Whip Eric Cantor (Va.) on Wednesday launched YouCut, an online hub where visitors can cast votes for any of five programs they'd like to see eliminated.
"Our national debt is simply unsustainable," Cantor said in a video describing the new initiative. "Washington has a spending problem, and both Democrats and Republicans bear some responsibility."
YouCut is an effort to bring the long-running GOP narrative of fiscal responsibility into the Web 2.0 era, and could be used to stake a claim of broad popular support for spending cuts as the minority party looks to reclaim seats in the House and Senate in the mid-term elections and paint Democrats as out of touch with the general public.
It also comes as both chambers are poised to consider Obama's budget for fiscal 2011, a debate that is likely to see its share of partisan rancor from both sides, and pointed accusations of wasteful spending from GOP members. Last month, the Senate Budget Committee passed a framework that contained stricter spending limits than the proposal Obama submitted in February, but that vote still fell along party lines.
Visitors to YouCut can vote for the program they would most like to see eliminated directly on the Web site or by sending a text message.
Cantor plans to announce the item that garners the most votes on Monday. Later in the week, House Republicans will try to force an up-or-down floor vote on whether to axe the program. Cantor said they plan to repeat the cycle each week, though it will likely take some parliamentary maneuvering to bring the spending cuts to a vote.
For the first round, Cantor offered up the Presidential Election Fund, which provides matching public funds for candidates during presidential primaries. Eliminating the fund could save $260 million over five years, Cantor estimates.
Also on the chopping block are the salaries of government workers whose jobs are focused on promoting the activities of federal employees unions. Cantor argues that many of these workers' jobs focus on political activities such as lobbying, and estimates that eliminating the positions could save at least $600 million over five years.
Cantor is also offering up a program in the Department of Housing and Urban Development that offers stipends to students writing dissertations on housing policy issues, for a savings of $1 million over five years.
Rounding out the list, Cantor is proposing $2.5 billion in annual savings by cutting a welfare program, and barring higher-income communities from receiving funds from the Community Development Block Grant program, for an estimated savings of $2.6 billion over five years.
Cantor heads up the GOP's Economic Recovery Working Group, a committee formed in January 2009, two weeks before then-President-elect Obama took office. The group, commissioned by House Minority Leader John Boehner, was created as a seedbed for the Republican policy approach to the economic crisis after Obama had made it clear that his first major legislative goal was an economic stimulus package.