Republicans promise $100 billion in spending cuts

By Andrew Taylor

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Feb. 10 2011 12:22 p.m. MST

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio leaves a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 10, 2011.

Manuel Balce Ceneta, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

WASHINGTON — Confronted with a rebellion of tea party-backed conservatives insistent on deeper spending cuts, House Republicans are promising to cut more than $60 billion from the budget as they draft legislation funding the government through Sept. 30.

Thursday's announcement by Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers comes just a day after he failed to sell a smaller package of cuts in a closed-door GOP meeting.

"Our intent is to make deep but manageable cuts in nearly every area of government, leaving no stone unturned and allowing no agency or program to be held sacred," Rogers said in a statement.

Driving the move is a promise made in last fall's campaign to cut $100 billion from President Barack Obama's proposals.

The Kentucky Republican had warned only yesterday that such cuts could lead to layoff of FBI agents and harm to the nation's air traffic control system. Republicans had earlier promised $74 billion in cuts from Obama's proposals.

The new plan would produce actual savings more like $60 billion since Obama's budget asked for sizable spending increases that were never enacted. The earlier GOP plan would have saved $35 billion, or about 3 percent from the agency operating budgets the Congress passes every year.

Thursday's announcement caps a long struggle among Republicans over what they meant exactly when promising to cut $100 billion last year in their "Pledge to America" campaign document. At the center of the debate has been the fact that the budget year began Oct. 1 and the government has been spending money at last year's levels since then. A stopgap government funding bill expires March 4.

That makes it much harder to keep the promise since it squeezes a year's worth of cuts into a seven-month time frame. Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, had earlier promised to spread the cuts over a calendar year, with the upcoming spending bill making a significant down payment in advance of another round of cuts as Congress hashes out next year's appropriations bills.

But rank-and-file Republicans, many of whom have little hands-on knowledge of the budget and the impact the cuts will have on programs popular with their constituents, insisted on keeping the $100 billion promise, forcing Boehner and the appropriations panel to go back to the drawing board.

"We will meet our pledge to America," Boehner said, adding that the upcoming legislation will "send a signal that we're serious about cutting spending here in Washington."

Further details were so far unavailable, but they will build upon a partial roster of cuts released Wednesday that targeted school aid, the Environmental Protection Agency and proposed killing off a high-speed rail program the Obama wants to significantly expand.

Republicans also promise to end federal funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, family planning services and AmeriCorps.

The new promise means closer scrutiny of the Pentagon, Homeland Security and possibly even veterans' accounts that Republicans had hoped to hold harmless.

And it means that the FBI won't get the 4 percent increase Republicans had hoped to give it, while health research might bear a cut instead of being frozen at $31 billion.

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