Charlie Neibergall, Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Despite scattered opposition from both ends of the political spectrum, House Republicans and the White House both predicted approval Tuesday for the hard-bargained $38 billion package of spending cuts that narrowly avoided a government shutdown.
House Democratic leaders remained non-committal on the legislation, sealed late last week in negotiations that excluded them.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, touted the plan somewhat cautiously, saying it was "far from perfect and we need to do much more if we're serious about creating new jobs."
In a posting on his website, Boehner said the measure calls for the largest non-military spending cut in history and would set the stage for a companion vote later in the week on a Republican budget to reduce federal deficits by trillions of dollars over the next decade.
The spending bill covering the rest is fiscal year through Sept. 30 is ticketed for a vote in the House on Thursday, with the Senate to follow either later in the day or on Friday.
The product of days of brinksmanship, the compromise gave the White House, House Republicans and Senate Democrats enough to claim victory yet left critics every opportunity to find fault.
Overall the $38 billion in cuts are less than the $61 billion contained in legislation the House passed in February. Senate Democrats and the White House initially advocated no reduction from current levels.
The legislation includes cuts for the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Institutes of Health, community health centers and the Community Development Block Grant, favored by mayors and other local officials.
Yet the administration and Senate Democrats succeeded in blunting Republican demands for even deeper reductions in those programs and elimination of others. The deal protects some of President Barack Obama's top priorities, leaving Head Start untouched, for example, while maintaining the maximum Pell education grant of $5,550.
Two prominent conservatives, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, and Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., both said they would vote against the legislation.
"I believe voters are asking us to set our sights higher," said Jordan, who chairs an organization of House conservatives. He said the group, the Republican Study Committee, had called earlier this year for $100 billion in cuts, a total that far exceeds the amount in the legislation.
Bachmann, a potential presidential candidate, said on a campaign-style trip to the first caucus state of the 2012 campaign that she was "very disappointed with the bill that came through. And that's an understatement."
In an appearance at a high school in Pella, Iowa, she said, "Voters expected us to defund Obama-care," a reference to the health care law that passed a year ago.
Republicans sought to include provisions that would have effectively voided the year-old health care law, but they were blocked during the negotiations by Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
In addition to the conservative criticism, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., one of the most liberal members of the Senate, said the cuts in the measure amount to "Robin Hood in reverse. It takes from struggling working families and gives to multimillionaires. This is obscene."
Sanders, who is seeking re-election next year, pointed to a reduction in the federal program that helps lower-income families pay their heating bills, and said Pell Grants for college students and the Women, Infant and Children nutrition program would be cut, as well.
Despite the criticism, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., predicted the legislation would pass and said "from every indication I have" support will be strong among the GOP rank and file.
At the White House, spokesman Jay Carney professed no concern about the bill's prospects. "The deal as I understand it is moving through Congress and will be signed by the president," he said.
Republicans hold a 241-192 majority in the House, with two vacancies. There are 87 first-term Republicans who will confront an early political test — whether to support a deal that contains less than they sought and their most avid tea party supporters want.
Democrats have a 51-47 majority in the Senate, although Sanders and Independent Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut also are aligned with them.
Apart from the spending issues, the negotiators on the legislation also managed a trade-off on non-spending items that complicated the talks.
Included in the bill is a voucher program that lets poor children in the District of Columbia use government funds to attend private schools. Republicans also won agreement to ban the capital city from using its own funds to pay for abortions for poor women.
But they gave up their attempt to block EPA rules on greenhouse gases and other emissions, and were unsuccessful in seeking changes to a federal program that supports family planning.
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