House GOP plans 3rd stopgap bill to avoid shutdown

By David Espo

Associated Press

Published: Monday, April 4 2011 12:00 a.m. MDT

The House passed the legislation more than a month ago calling for $61 billion in cuts from current levels.

In addition, that measure includes dozens of proposals not directly related to spending, including curbs on the Environmental Protection Agency and other federal regulatory agencies and a denial of funding to Planned Parenthood.

Unlike the House, the Senate has yet to pass a spending bill to close out the current budget year, now more than half over, and Democrats are divided on how deeply to cut. In several weeks of maneuvering, Congress has agreed on a pair of stopgap bills that cut $10 billion, and Obama has signed them.

Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., chairman of the House Budget Committee, has said the blueprint he intends to unveil would cut in excess of $4 trillion from the budget, far more than the $2.2 trillion that Obama claimed in his own blueprint and on a par with recommendations of a bipartisan deficit commission last winter.

Other officials said that under Ryan's proposal, the annual deficit would fall below $1 trillion at the end of the coming fiscal year but would not be erased by the end of the decade.

The deficit is currently projected at $1.6 trillion for the current fiscal year, and the administration estimates that under Obama's budget, it would drop to $1.1 trillion next year and $774 billion in 2021.

Republican officials said about $1 trillion in savings under their emerging plan would come from changes to Medicaid, the federal-state program that provides health care for the poor.

Spending on hundreds of domestic programs — the accounts at the heart of the talks to avoid a government shutdown — would be returned to levels in effect in 2008, at a savings of hundreds of billions of dollars.

One of the most significant changes would occur in Medicare, which provides health care for seniors, but would not affect current beneficiaries or workers age 55 and older.

Once eligible, they would receive Medicare coverage from private insurance companies that operate plans approved by the federal government. No details were available on what level of service would be assured, or how much financial support the government would provide.

Republicans intend to move quickly to advance their new blueprint. They hope to have the Budget Committee approve it Wednesday and push it through the House next week.

The plan is expected to serve as a rallying point for Republicans who took power in January, but it is also likely to give Democrats a ready target to attack.

Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi has drawn attention in recent days to public opinion surveys reporting widespread skepticism about fundamental changes in Medicare.

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