“Cut and grow.”
That was the inconsistent message at soon-to-be Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s first press conference on Tuesday, where he previewed the GOP’s agenda for the 112th Congress. With a slew of reporters packed in around him, Cantor laid out the party’s priorities, hammering away on issues like job creation, slashing spending, and “expanding liberty”—all themes you’ve heard more times than you can count. But near the end of the briefing, Cantor raised eyebrows on the subject of defense spending, until now the GOP’s sacred cow of government spending.
Asked whether he’d consider cutting defense spending, Cantor replied: “Everything’s got to be on the table. Everyone in this town must go through what people at home are doing—which is doing more with less, and prioritizing what we should be about.” He went on, “We’re going to be focused on what are the things that are priority to ensure our national security.”
While not directly saying so, Cantor has now opened the door for lawmakers who believe the Department of Defense’s $663 billion budget is ripe for shrinking. That’s a departure from the traditional Republican party line, which has left defense and security spending untouched while eagerly calling for cuts to domestic programs like Medicare, Social Security, and education funding.
But Cantor looks to have put defense spending in play as well. As the new 112th Congress officially gets to work on Wednesday, and begins taking the red pen to federal spending, we’ll see whether Cantor stands by his statement or backs down.