When asked three times Thursday by The Daily Republic to say what spending she wants to eliminate from the federal budget, Rep. Kristi Noem punted twice before citing a set of proposed environmental regulations she wants to forestall.
Later in the day, her spokesman said she supports numerous cuts, including reductions or eliminations in funding for high-speed rail projects, cap-and-trade technical assistance, and subsidies for the Washington Metro rapid transit system.
Noem, R-S.D., conducted a regularly scheduled conference call with reporters Thursday morning. At the end of her opening statement, Noem spoke of the federal government's ongoing budget stalemate. She said the government is borrowing 42 cents of every dollar it spends, and she called for billions of dollars in spending cuts to restore fiscal responsibility.
The Daily Republic asked Noem to state her priorities regarding which programs or areas of the federal government should be cut.
"You have to put everything on the table and have discussions about everything the federal government does," she answered.
She also said national defense is a vital function of the government and Congress should "go down from there," making sure to create jobs and aid the economy, while avoiding "duplicative programs" and things the federal government "shouldn't be funding." She went on to say the federal government accumulates more debt per day than South Dakota's government spends in an entire year.
She did not provide any specific examples of what should be cut from the federal budget, so The Daily Republic phrased the question another way:
"As you've said, we're talking billions of dollars here, and that has to impact some program, somebody," The Daily Republic said. "If these cuts that the House Republicans are proposing go through, what are we actually going to see get cut, and who's going to be impacted?"
Noem responded that the cuts she supports are contained in a House bill that was passed almost 40 days ago and is known as HR1. That bill proposed about $60 billion in spending reductions, but it was defeated in the Democrat-controlled Senate. In the meantime, Congress has been funding the government with temporary resolutions, while negotiations continue on a budget for the rest of the fiscal year.
Noem said HR1 is "tied to discretionary spending" and includes some "reductions," as well as "the zeroing out of some programs."
Again, however, she did not cite a specific example of what should be cut from the budget.
So, The Daily Republic phrased the question a third way:
"But can you give us any one example of something that will be cut by these proposals?"
Noem then referenced an amendment she added to HR1 that she said would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from implementing stricter standards on dust control.
After the conference call, The Daily Republic asked Noem's spokesman, Joshua Shields, if warding off EPA dust regulations is something Noem thinks will result in reduced federal spending. He acknowledged that it's "more of a policy rider" and not a spending cut.
Shields also said more attention should be focused on the impact of the country's massive debt and budget deficit.
"There hasn't been a lot of writing on the big picture numbers," Shields said.