Republican Whip Eric Cantor introducing YouCut on a YouTube video.
WASHINGTON — With one eye on the deficit and another on the November elections, a group of House Republicans including Erik Paulsen this week rolled out a new website that’s a cross between “American Idol” and fiscally conservative fiscal policy.
Democrats had a simpler name for it — gimmick — though if a similar vote this week is any indication, the program could become a thorn in their side from now until November.
It’s part of the political silly season in the run-up to November’s midterm elections, where Republicans hope to force vulnerable Democrats to take tough votes, while Democrats hope to help those same vulnerable members offer popular amendments to shore up support back home.
The GOP’s YouCut website allows users to vote on the spending restrictions and cuts they want to see Congress make. It’s anything from forbidding federal workers from union activities while on the clock to eliminating the presidential election matching fund.
The “winner” will be featured in a procedural test vote that Republicans plan to force next week.
“Maybe they’ve outlived their usefulness,” Paulsen said of the programs. “It’s drawing a little more attention to that, and I think forcing folks to justify their means is a good thing.
“I wish we would have been doing it six months ago,” Paulsen said, dismissing the Democrats’ charge of gimmickry. “I would hope that this would continue not just now but all the way after the next election.”
Democrats were quick to point out that deficits increased when Republicans had control of Congress and the White House, and that the proposed cuts totaled “less than one tenth of 1 percent” of the federal budget.
“Maybe Republicans were sick the day they taught math in school, but their efforts at fiscal responsibility don’t even begin to make a dent in the enormous deficit racked up under their control,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said in a statement.
The corollary to forcing tough votes on your opponents is where the majority party allows its most vulnerable members to add politically popular amendments so they’ll have specific accomplishments to point to when asked by voters back home why they should be returned to Congress.
That effort was in full swing this week, as Democrats offered a raft of 54 amendments (more than two dozen of those from lawmakers in marginal constituencies) to a science jobs bill.
In the end, however, that bill didn’t even make it through a final vote.
Using the same procedural tactic they’ll use next week for their first YouCut winner, the GOP on Thursday forced a vote on a motion to ban funding the salaries of people who view pornography on government computers, as well as ban funding schools that don’t allow military recruiters on campus.
The Republican motion passed overwhelmingly and, in a preview of what may yet come, Democrats were forced to shelve their bill and, along with it, all the amendments their vulnerable members had gotten approved.