Putting a love of spending cuts to the test

PUTTING A LOVE OF SPENDING CUTS TO THE TEST…. Rep. Bobby Schilling (R) of Illinois, like his GOP brethren, was elected after making bold-but-vague promises about spending cuts. As is often the case, Schilling is discovering how much easier it is to talk about these issues than act on them.

Last week, for example, the freshman Republican voted for his party’s spending bill, which included a provision to kill a $230 million federal grant to build an Amtrak line from Chicago to Iowa City. That means fewer jobs in his district and less economic growth.

Don’t worry, Schilling is telling his constituents, his vote that would hurt his district will hopefully get fixed in the Senate.

“I don’t believe it’s dead,” he said. But when asked if he would fight for its survival if it returns, he said, “I’m going to take a good hard look at it.”

Ironically, Schilling said two players from opposite sides of the aisle will make sure the rail comes across his desk again.

“Durbin and [Sen.] Mark Kirk aren’t going to let a lot of this stuff flow through, and then it’s going to come back and then we break it down on an individual basis,” he said. “You know, that’s just how the process works.”

That’s quite a line for a member of Congress to take. He’s effectively telling his constituents that he’s voting against their interests, but it won’t matter because others help clean up his mess.

Similarly, the Washington Post reports today on another freshman Republican, Rep. Frank Guinta of New Hampshire, who’s also learning about the consequences of his actions.

The House spending bill would cut $1.3 billion in federal funding for community health centers. It would erase leftover stimulus funds that Exeter Hospital is counting on.

In a conference room at Exeter, chief executive Kevin Callahan told Guinta that the House bill would undercut one of the pillars of local health care: a community health center that treats low-income residents. If the center didn’t exist, patients would go to the emergency room for basic services, at many times the cost.

“That is a way of providing health care that I think most people don’t take advantage of,” Guinta interjected.

Mark Whitney, the hospital’s head of strategic planning, urged Guinta to seek out the people who run the center to learn more about their work. “I think that would be a great conversation,” Whitney said.

Later, in an interview, Guinta said the House bill “is only step one.”

“There are things that I prefer not be in there,” he said, including the health center cuts.

As Brian Beutler joked the other day, “Life was more fun for Republicans when they could vote ‘no’ on job-creating bills like the stimulus, then go to ribbon-cutting ceremonies for stimulus projects in their districts.”