Challenging Obama, House GOP calls for deep cuts

By David Espo

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 9 2011 3:51 p.m. MST

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, center, accompanied by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Va., and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of Calif., speaks to reporters the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2011, after having lunch with President Barack Obama.

Charles Dharapak, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

WASHINGTON — Eager to take a quick, $35 billion bite out of government, House Republicans called for termination of at least 60 federal programs Wednesday and cuts in hundreds of others, targeting education and the environment, food safety and law enforcement.

In a blunt challenge to President Barack Obama, the plan calls for eliminating a high-speed rail program the administration has ticketed for a multibillion-dollar expansion. It also recommends ending federal support for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, family planning services and AmeriCorps.

The government's principal nutrition program for pregnant women would be cut 6 percent below last year's level.

The proposal marks an initial attempt by newly empowered Republicans to cut spending and reduce the size of the federal government. It sets the stage for weeks of political combat as Democrats seek to blunt the cuts while tea party-backed conservatives work to deepen them.

Republicans are "keeping our pledge to the American people that we will cut spending," said House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, after details were outlined for the rank and file at a closed-door meeting.

Preliminary details of the plan emerged just before Obama hosted Boehner and his two top lieutenants at a White House lunch.

Reacting mildly to the recommended cuts, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs cited a "broad agreement that we have to change the way Washington works, particularly as it relates to spending."

At the same time, he said, "We have to do so in a way that protects the important investments so that we can win the future," signaling the president will fight to protect his own priorities.

Republicans withheld many of the details of their proposal, which officials said was undergoing final changes before legislation is filed.

Still unclear, officials said, is whether the draft measure will try to ban the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. Alternatively, a prohibition to that effect could be added when the bill reaches the House floor next week.

Other GOP priorities, including a ban on using federal money to implement the new health care law, are expected to be added, as well.

According to material presented by Rep. Harold Rogers, R-Ky., chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, the cuts would stretch across a vast range of domestic programs, from the EPA to housing, the weather service, food safety and inspection and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Community Development Block Grant, which provides funding for municipalities, would also be cut.

The cuts Rogers outlined have the blessing of GOP leaders, who are trying to carry out the mandate of last fall's elections while remaining mindful of the political limits of reductions that would affect many millions of people.

Some Republicans said they weren't satisfied, even before they knew all the details.

"I haven't looked at the specifics on the list, but the grand total isn't sufficient for me," said Rep. John Campbell of California.

"I think we have to do more than that, both because of what we told people we're going to do but also, frankly, almost more importantly, because of the severity of the situation."

The deficit is projected to be a record $1.5 trillion for the current fiscal year, and the national debt is approaching $14 trillion. Both categories have swelled in recent years as the United States tries to recover from the worst recession since the 1930s.

At the same time, public anger over red ink helped give rise to the tea party and the election of 87 new House Republicans last fall, enough to return the party to a majority.

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