GOP House Leaders and New Spending Promises

One of the most explicit promises Speaker John Boehner, R-Oh., and the newly empowered Republicans made was to cut deficits immediately by returning to 2008 spending levels.

"Which, if we were able to do with the whole fiscal year, would reduce spending by 100 billion dollars," says Representative Mike Pence, R-In.

But Republicans won't have a whole budget year to work with. Congress failed to pass a current budget even though the fiscal year began last October. So the government is now operating on a temporary spending measure which runs out in March.

Budget chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wi., said that because they're halfway through the fiscal year, half the spending cats are already out of the bag. So by the time any cuts can be made, the reductions will add up to less.

"They'll try to cut tens of billions of dollars out of that funding, but realistically getting down all the way to 2008 might take a year and a half instead of the first year," says Doug Holtz Eakin, a republican analyst and former head of the Congressional Budget Office. "That would still be a remarkable success."

As a result, the cuts for this budget year are likely to be closer to 60 billion.

But Holtz Eakin notes that, "The basic idea is not to cut 100 billion dollars; it's to go back to the levels of funding that existed before we had the financial crisis, before we had the deep recession."Even without hitting the 100 billion mark, Republicans say there should be no doubt where they're headed.

Pence says, "Republicans are going to start from literally day one to change the culture in Washington, D.C. from a culture of spending to a culture of cutting." But House democrats accused the Republicans of breaking a key promise on the first day, even though they oppose that much in spending cuts.

Democrats also argue the health care law saved money so the Republican plan to repeal it would make the deficit worse.

Representative Debbie Wasserman Shultz, D-Fl., says, "They're going to pursue fruitlessly the repeal of health care reform, which actually will explode the decifit by $143 billion in the first ten years and a trillion dollars over the second ten."

That is the way it was officially scored by the Congressional Budget Office.

But Holtz Eakin says that is "fantasy accounting at its finest."

He says the claimed savings are bogus, in part because the cost of the bill excluded a 300 billion dollar fix to doctors payments, which had to be passed separately.

And the health care law claimed to cut 500 billion dollars from Medicare, but Holtz Eakin says, "They didn't make any provision for making medicare operate more cheaply. They just promised that at some point they would cut the money."

Count him as skeptical.

Republican leaders say any proposed cuts would include defense and homeland security, but some republicans are now saying defense should be on the table too.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates will propose his own savings Thursday in hopes of staying ahead of the curve.

Jim Angle currently serves as chief national correspondent for Fox News Channel (FNC). He joined FNC in 1996 as a senior White House correspondent.