Freshmen spur GOP-run House on big spending cuts

By Andrew Taylor

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, Feb. 19 2011 12:26 p.m. MST

Republicans awarded the Pentagon an increase of less than 2 percent increase, but domestic agencies would endure cuts of about 12 percent. Such reductions would feel almost twice as deep since they would be spread over the final seven months of the budget year.

Republicans back away from some of the most politically difficult cuts to grants to local police and fire departments, special education and economic development. Amtrak supporters repelled an attempt to slash its budget.

About the only victory scored by Obama was on a vote to cancel $450 million for a costly alternative engine for the Pentagon's next-generation F-35 warplane. It was a priority of Defense Secretary Robert Gates and passed with the votes of many GOP conservatives who opposed the $3 billion program.

The Environmental Protection Agency took hits from Republicans eager to defend business and industry from agency rules they say threaten job creation and the economy. The EPA's budget was slashed by almost one-third, and then its regulatory powers were handcuffed in a series of votes.

The measure would block proposed federal regulations on emission of greenhouse gases, which are blamed for climate change. It also would stop a proposed regulation on mercury emissions from cement. Additionally, the bill calls for a halt to proposed regulations affecting Internet service providers and privately-owned colleges.

The 359-page bill was shaped beginning to end by the first-term Republicans, many of them elected with tea party backing.

They rejected an initial draft advanced by the leadership and produced by Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., chairman of the Appropriations Committee, saying it did not cut deeply enough.

The revised bill added more reductions and cut $100 billion from Obama's request for the current year, the amount Republicans had cited in their campaign-season Pledge to America.

But a tea party-backed amendment to cut $22 billion on top of the $60-billion-plus worth of steep cuts already made by the measure failed by almost 2-to-1.

The heavily subsidized ethanol industry absorbed a pair of defeats. One blocks the agency approving boosting the amount of ethanol in most gasoline to 15 percent.

EPA foes prevailed in halting the agency from using its powers to try to curb greenhouse gases. The EPA has taken steps to regulate global warming pollution from vehicles and the largest factories and industrial plants and is expected to soon roll out rules that target refineries and power plants.

The move to stop the EPA from regulating greenhouse-gas polluters came from Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, who said his congressional district is home to more oil refineries than any other.

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