WASHINGTON — House Republican leaders said Thursday that they would accede to demands from conservatives and dig deeper into the federal budget for billions of dollars in additional savings this year, exhibiting the power of the Tea Party movement and increasing chances of a major fiscal clash with Democrats.
In response to complaints from rank-and-file Republicans that the party was not fulfilling a campaign promise to roll back domestic spending this year by $100 billion, the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee said his panel would abandon its initial plan and draw up a new one to slice spending more aggressively.
The reversal was the most concrete demonstration yet that the wave of fiscal conservatives who catapulted Republicans into the House majority is reshaping the political and policy calculations being made by the party leadership. It highlighted the challenges Republican leaders face as they try to enact a spending plan for the balance of this fiscal year before a March 4 deadline, and it portends further clashes as Congress turns to battles over raising the federal debt ceiling and adopting a budget for next year.
Senate Democrats, who will have to negotiate with their Republican counterparts in the House, criticized the plan, accusing Republicans of slashing too deeply into programs like community law enforcement while refusing to end subsidies to powerful allies like the oil industry.
The $100 billion goal set by the House Republicans as they sought to defeat Democrats in November was to come from requests from the Obama administration for the 2011 fiscal year, which began Oct. 1. Some of those requests were significant increases that were never enacted, so the cuts being sought by Republicans may still fall short of the $100 billion target — although they would be far-reaching in the domestic programs that would absorb the brunt of them.
The initial Republican plan called for $35 billion in cuts for the balance of this year, which has more than seven months yet to run. Republican leaders had said that figure was equivalent to about $74 billion in cuts had they been applied to the full fiscal year, measured against the budget request made last year by the Obama administration.
But that argument rang hollow to many conservative Republicans who did not relish the idea of explaining to constituents why the new majority was coming up short of the pledge.