HOUSE REPUBLICANS TO BREAK KEY PROMISE ON DAY 1…. When House Republican leaders unveiled their Pledge to America in September, it included a pretty striking promise to voters — if elected, the GOP majority would “roll back government spending” by “at least $100 billion in the first year alone.”

By all accounts, the figure was entirely arbitrary. It’s not as if Republicans identified $100 billion in unnecessary spending and vowed to eliminate it, or identified some specific policy benefit associated with these cuts. The capricious goal was chosen because it was a round number. They thought it sounded nice, and voters would be impressed.

Regardless, GOP leaders touted the figure incessantly throughout the campaign season, and kept pushing it in the lead up to the new Congress. Indeed, as recently as last week, party leaders were not only sticking to the $100 billion figure, they insisted that they would make the cuts without touching defense, Social Security, or Medicare.

Even after being confronted with evidence that such a goal would necessitate devastating cuts to education, health care, law enforcement, and transportation, House Republicans said they didn’t care. After all, they said, a promise is a promise, and this is a priority the GOP is willing to fight for.

Or rather, it was.

Monday, Republicans started slowly backing away from their $100 billion commitment. Yesterday, the pledge was effectively thrown out the window.

Many people knowledgeable about the federal budget said House Republicans could not keep their campaign promise to cut $100 billion from domestic spending in a single year. Now it appears that Republicans agree. […]

Now aides say that the $100 billion figure was hypothetical, and that the objective is to get annual spending for programs other than those for the military, veterans and domestic security back to the levels of 2008, before Democrats approved stimulus spending to end the recession.

Oh, I see. Republican pledges are “hypothetical” promises. The Pledge to America must have included asterisks and disclaimers in font so small, the country missed the caveats.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), the ranking member on the House Budget Committee, said, “I think they woke up to the reality that this will have a direct negative impact on people’s lives…. You know, it’s easy to talk about these things in the abstract. It’s another thing when you start taking away people’s college loans and Pell Grants or cutting early education programs.”

To be sure, I’m delighted Republicans aren’t actually going to pursue this indefensible goal. When political leaders start breaking high-profile promises right out of the gate, it’s generally not a positive development, but in this case, we’re all better off with GOP leaders having changed their minds.

Of course, this doesn’t change the fact that Republicans never should have made this promise to begin with, and shouldn’t have put themselves in a position in which they’re breaking their own pledge immediately after taking office.

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Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.