Republicans in congress have vowed to cut $100 billion from the federal budget. Congressman Tom Latham, a Republican from Ames, says “there’s plenty of waste” to cut.

“The American people want a smart federal government. They want a leaner federal government and that’s exactly what we’re going to attempt to do,” Latham says. “And it’s going to be difficult, but it’s something that just has to be done.” 

Latham cites the national debt — estimated in the range of $14 trillion — as a motivation. “It’s just simply not sustainable and we’ve got to start to reduce the amount of spending in the federal government immediately,” Latham says.

Since Republicans took control of the U.S. House this week, Latham is now chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development.  He also is serving on the subcommittees which draft spending on federal agriculture and homeland security programs.

“We’re going to go in and dig through each program that’s there. If they’re authorized, we’ll look at their funding,” Latham says. “There’s a lot of programs that have never even been authorized that funding is being spent on today.”

According to Latham, “a lot” of government programs were never created or authorized by congress and he says those should be carefully scrutinized for potential elimination. Latham cites the State Department as an example, since he says that agency’s budget has not been publicly authorized by congress “for decades.”

Latham drew attention this past week when he said there would be no additional money set aside to implement new federal food safety regulations. Latham heads the budget panel that will make initial decisions on that issue. Senator Tom Harkin suggested Latham was bluffing. Harkin said he’d hate to be a congressman running for reelection in a district where people got sick or died from food poisoning. Latham’s congressional district does include the two massive egg operations determined to be responsible for this past summer’s salmonella outbreak.