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House Republicans Accede to Demands for Bigger Spending Cuts

Friday, 11 Feb 2011 06:47 AM

 

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House Republican leaders said they will seek another $26 billion in government spending reductions this year, bowing to pressure from colleagues to keep their campaign promise to cut $100 billion.

Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers of Kentucky said his panel will boost the savings in a proposed budget measure Republicans plan to unveil as early as today and debate on the House floor next week.

“Our intent is to make deep but manageable cuts in nearly every area of the government, leaving no stone unturned and allowing no agency or program to be held sacred,” Rogers said in a statement yesterday. “We are continuing to work to complete this critical legislation.”

He didn’t say where the additional savings would come. Representative Norm Dicks of Washington, the top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, said the cuts would force agencies to furlough employees. “It’s going to affect jobs -- it has to,” he said.

The revised plan will make it harder to reach agreement with Senate Democrats who were already balking at savings outlined a day earlier by Rogers. That proposal would have cut $74 billion from President Barack Obama’s budget request for this year, which amounts to $35 billion less than last year.

A $100 billion reduction in the president’s request for fiscal 2011 would be about $60 billion less than last year’s spending.

Government Shutdown

The cuts would be attached to a resolution to keep the government in business through September. Current spending authority expires March 4, and without agreement between the two chambers the government will shut down.

“Different factions of the House Republicans keep trying to outbid each other on spending cuts,” said Senator Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat. “They are blindly swinging a meat ax to the budget,” and “some of these House Republicans won’t be satisfied with anything less than a shutdown of the government,” he said.

Representative Mike Simpson, an Idaho Republican, called a government shutdown a “possibility, but we’re going to do everything we can to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

House Republicans’ “Pledge to America” during last year’s campaign promised to reduce discretionary spending to 2008 “pre-stimulus” levels, saving $100 billion in the first year. Because the fiscal year began in October, Republicans said last month they would set spending at 2008 levels for just the final seven months and seek the rest of the $100 billion in savings later.

Republican Study Committee

A group of fiscally conservative lawmakers known as the Republican Study Committee threatened to seek additional cuts on the House floor to keep the $100 billion promise. That threatened a potentially embarrassing intraparty dispute over how to cut the budget.

Representative Jim Jordan, an Ohio Republican who leads the group, said he was pleased with plans to increase the savings. “We like the fact that we’re getting more savings for the taxpayer,” he said.

Another member of the group, California Republican John Campbell, said he didn’t know where the additional savings would come nor was he especially concerned.

“I’m such a hawk on spending that it’s almost like I don’t care what it is -- there’s nothing that they can cut that I will say no to,” Campbell said. “My view is that the debt is the greatest single threat to American security, prosperity and hegemony going forward and if you believe that everything else pales in comparison.”

House Freshmen

The party’s large class of freshman lawmakers had also pushed for steeper cuts.

“We have 87 new colleagues we’re just getting to know and we’re trying to get their perspective,” said House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. “I love the fact that we are now changing the dynamic in Congress to how much we should cut, versus how much we should spend.”

Representative Mike Pompeo, a freshman Republican from Kansas, said “leadership is listening,” while first-termer Tim Scott of South Carolina said, “We absolutely made progress.”

House Republicans announced earlier this week they would seek to end more than 60 government programs, including Obama’s high-speed rail initiative, the Americorps volunteer program and funds for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Scores of other environmental, energy, health care, law enforcement and other initiatives would also be reduced.

Representative Bill Young, a Florida Republican who leads the defense appropriations subcommittee, said his panel will produce an additional $1.5 billion in savings, which would mean cutting $15 billion from the Pentagon’s budget request.

Simpson, whose appropriations subcommittee sets the budget for the Environmental Protection Agency and other departments, said the cuts will mean “some more comes out of EPA, some more comes out of everybody else.”


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