Washington (CNN) - The Republicans are looking to lead by example cutting their own office budgets by 5 percent. Rep. John Campbell (R-CA) is one member who's taking the effort to heart by making difficult choices-and he bristles at the suggestion the effort isn't meaningful.
"Outside (of) the entitlement programs, this is how we're going to do this... a bite at a time, finding various departments, various agencies, various places where we can save $10 million, $20 million, $30 million… and start adding (it) up to get the deficit down."
The new Congress voted overwhelmingly Thursday, 410 to 13, to cut its own budget. Critics call the move largely symbolic when comparing the savings estimated to be $35 million dollars to the $3.5 trillion dollar federal budget.
Campbell, a four term Republican, told CNN how he plans to cut his own $1.5 million office budget by $75,000. He has eliminated one position on his staff of 14. The office has a new, cheaper long distance phone carrier, they have canceled some publications, they plan more constituent outreach via email to save on postage and the new Republican congressional work schedule means fewer trips back to his California district.
The congressman, who is a former small businessman himself, says it makes sense for Congress to start with its own budget. "Businesses small and large are having to do more with less, and it's time we in government do more with less."
"Private businesses have been doing this because they're out money," he said. "Guess what, the federal government is out of money. We've been out of money for years. We just print it and borrow it. But we're not going to be able to print it and borrow it without end."
The congressman and his chief of staff have been going over the office budget with a fine tooth comb.
"We have gotten accustomed to getting an increase in our annual budget every year," said Campbell. But he said he has always run a "frugal" office giving back a portion of his budget every year but never as high as 5 percent. "It's not fun, but you're forced to do with less," he said.
Campbell told CNN he thinks the cuts to congressional office budgets should be even deeper than 5 percent but he's not sure his colleagues would go along with that. He confides the 5 percent cuts have spurred some "whining." "But I think the vast majority of people understand that they can do this, and more importantly, that we need to do this."