Republican plan would cut $32B from agency budgets

Friday - 2/4/2011, 1:23pm EST

By Jolie Lee and Julia Ziegler
Federal News Radio

Republicans in control of the House outlined a plan Thursday to slash agencies' budgets by $32 billion for the remainder of the 2011 fiscal year.

The cuts would have to win approval in the coming weeks as Congress wraps up the long-overdue 2011 budget. The current continuing resolution expires March 4.

"Washington's spending spree is over," said House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) in a statement. "As House Republicans pledged - and voted to affirm on the House floor last week - the spending limits will restore sanity to a broken budget process and return spending for domestic government agencies to pre-stimulus, pre-bailout levels."

Under the plan, the hardest hit agencies would include the Food and Drug Administration, the Internal Revenue Service and the departments of Commerce, Housing and Urban Development and Agriculture, according to partial details released by the House Appropriations Committee. Foreign aid on an annualized basis would take a 6 percent cut. Congress's own budget would be barely touched.

Also included in Thursday's plan:

  • The Department of Homeland Security would face a budget freeze instead of the 3 percent increase proposed by Obama.
  • Republicans would scale back Obama's proposed 4 percent, $23 billion increase for the Pentagon. Instead, the military budget would grow by just $10 billion.
  • Popular programs such as health research and federal aid to school districts appear likely to take a hit when lawmakers write the spending bill for the departments of Education, Labor and Health and Human Services.
  • Rapidly growing spending on veterans' health care appears likely to be largely untouched.

House Republicans made a campaign promise to cut $100 billion from Obama's request for domestic agencies for the budget year that began last October. Republicans acknowledge they can achieve, at best, $35 billion in overall savings by Sept. 30, the end of the budget year, after the Pentagon receives its small boost. House GOP members have promised to try to fully impose the cuts during the 2012 budget season.

Democrats have expressed concern that the proposed cuts for the remainder of 2011 could lead to a government shutdown. But Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) told The Hill that these concerns are trumped-up.

"This crap that's being put out now isn't about anything true, it's about a political agenda," Coburn said. "The American people want a fix and they want us to do it together, and nobody is talking about shutting down the government."

In addition, the White House says the GOP effort could cause widespread furloughs of federal employees, force vulnerable people off subsidized housing, reduce services in national parks and mean less aid to schools and police and fire departments.

Conservative Republicans want even greater cuts, and they'll be given the chance to impose them in a floor debate scheduled for the week of Feb. 14, when the president is scheduled to roll out the fiscal year 2012 budget.

The President's proposed budget includes plans to cut $55 billion from the federal budget. Obama's Chief of Staff William Daley said the upcoming budget will propose a 10-year domestic spending freeze.

At the same time, the Senate appears to be moving forward on a more bipartisan effort in tackling the fiscal year 2012 budget. Politico reports that Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), chairman of the Budget Committee, has a plan to include last year's deficit commission recommendations that would cut nearly $4 trillion over the next decade.

On Thursday, White House Budget Director Jacob Lew met with Senate Democrats to discuss the deficit commission proposals. The commission had proposed a three-year pay freeze for federal employees and a federal workforce reduction of 10 percent.

Currently, a two-year pay freeze for federal employees is in effect.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)