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A Boehner-Cantor Split? (Update: Cantor Spokesman Walks It Back)

What will the 112th Congress do about defense spending?

3:39 PM, Nov 3, 2010 • By MATTHEW CONTINETTI
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Today, the Washington Post reports that Eric Cantor "said on CNN Wednesday that all discretionary spending should be cut to 2008 levels, including defense."

Yet in their Pledge to America, Republicans wrote this:

With common-sense exceptions for seniors, veterans, and our troops, we will roll back government spending to prestimulus, pre-bailout levels, saving us at least $100 billion in the first year alone and putting us on a path to begin paying down the debt, balancing the budget, and ending the spending spree in Washington that threatens our children’s future.

And here's what Paul Ryan told Marc Thiessen at AEI last July:

I could go on and on about ways in which we can save money—not to hollow out our defenses, not to reduce the fulfillment of our missions, but to make them better and more secure. But we should make sure we take that scalpel to the Pentagon as well. Because I would argue there is a lot of waste to be gotten. But let’s not do so at the expense of our fundamental, primary function of our federal government, which is to secure our national defense. So I believe in a big cap, and I believe in a firewall, so you can’t take money from defense to plow it into all this domestic spending, but under that cap let’s make sure that we can get savings so that we can do more with less—or, what do they say these days? Do more with not as much, I think, is the way Secretary Gates says it.

Thiessen then asked Ryan if he was for net increases or decreases in defense spending: 

I would say, looking at the baseline, you would have to have net increases. You can’t fulfill the missions we have, give the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines what they need to do their job, without a net increase. That is just a baseline reality.

And in May, a high-level Republican told the Heritage Foundation:

It is time for conservatives who believe in peace through strength and the righteousness of our cause to stand up and serve as a check and balance on the Administration’s policies.  America needs to turn back harmful treaties like START; once again fund weapons research and development not just to meet the threats of today, but to meet those of tomorrowfight for missile defense; and update its nuclear warheads
 
Everyone wants peace, but history shows that the blind pursuit of peace at any cost only makes war more likely.

That high-level Republican was none other than Eric Cantor. Did the Virginia congressman misspeak on CNN? Or have the GOP's priorities changed?

Thomas Donnelly explains the necessity of defense spending in our current issue.

Update (4:01 p.m.): Cantor's spokesman Brad Dayspring tells THE WEEKLY STANDARD that Cantor does not support an across-the-board cut to '08 levels: "As stated in the Pledge, Congressman Cantor believes that there are obvious common sense exceptions to any across the board style cut, and our troops and security budget certainly meet that test. That said, he believes that if there is waste at the Pentagon – or any other federal agency – it is our responsibility to eliminate it."

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