Buffeted by deficit pressures, House Democratic leaders are proposing a $7 billion cut in President Barack Obama's budget for the next fiscal year.
Democratic aides said Wednesday that the cuts will be implemented as Democrats pass a short-term budget plan cutting deeper than Obama's proposed freeze of the annual operating budgets of domestic agencies.
The cut amounts to less than 1 percent of the more than $1.1 trillion proposed for agency budgets funded by lawmakers each year through the spending bills. The next fiscal year begins Oct. 1.
The aides spoke on condition of anonymity because the plan has not been formally announced.
Across the Capitol, Senate Democratic leaders were moving to cut billions of dollars from a grab-bag measure to extend unemployment benefits, provide cash assistance to state governments and extend dozens of tax breaks sought by business lobbyists.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., was courting Maine Republicans Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe to provide the critical votes needed to defeat a GOP filibuster. The two senators were pressing for additional cuts to the measure. A version adding $55 billion to the deficit over the upcoming decade stalled last week.
Snowe said Tuesday that Democrats have offered to pare back a $24 billion package of Medicaid aid to states but that more needs to be done to win her vote.
The developments reflect heightened concerns in Congress about the deficit, which added up to $1.4 trillion last year and has become a top issue with voters as Democrats face potentially bruising losses in the November midterm elections.
Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said Tuesday that the House won't pass a longer term budget plan, a move that was met with scorn by Republicans, who charge Democrats with abdicating a basic responsibility of governing.
The Maryland Democrat says that job should be left to Obama's fiscal commission. But the decision against passing a budget frees Democrats from having to cast politically painful votes for huge budget deficits.
Under arcane budget rules, Congress is supposed to pass a nonbinding budget blueprint that sets the parameters for subsequent tax and spending bills. Political pressures, however, often mean that Congress fails to accomplish the task in election years.
The short-term budget plan would allow Democrats to begin advancing the 12 annual spending bills that typically dominate floor action in the summertime. It's become increasingly clear, however, that few of the bills will become law Election Day, which would set the stage for an omnibus spending bill in a post-election lame duck session.
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