House Republicans proposed another round of budget cuts affecting health care, education, housing, transportation and scores of other programs one month after lawmakers wrapped up a spending fight that almost shut down the federal government.
The plan would cut another $46 billion, or 11 percent, from the domestic “discretionary” portion of the budget on top of $38 billion in savings enacted in April. Homeland security funding would be reduced by $1 billion while the Defense Department would receive an additional $17 billion, for a net $30 billion reduction.
“This year, more than ever, we must make the hard budget decisions to help rein in spending,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, a Kentucky Republican.
“It’s going to be brutal,” said Representative Norm Dicks, the top Democrat on the appropriations committee. “I worry about things like women and infant care and food inspections and all kinds of things -- infrastructure, Pell grants.”
The plan is for the 2012 fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. At the same time, lawmakers are considering more sweeping budget cuts as part of negotiations over increasing the federal debt limit.
Meetings With Obama
Senate Democrats met today with President Barack Obama on the financial issues. Obama is slated to meet tomorrow with their Republican counterparts.
Also, a bipartisan group of senators known as the “Gang of Six” and another group led by Vice President Joe Biden continue to meet to hash out deficit-reduction plans ahead of an August 2 deadline for raising the debt ceiling.
While they debate the debt cap, the House Appropriations panel is pushing ahead with its annual work of setting funding levels for hundreds of programs that comprise roughly one-third of the government’s $3.7 trillion budget.
Idaho Republican Representative Mike Simpson, chairman of a subcommittee with authority over environmental programs, said he likely will revive many of the cuts approved earlier this year by the House that were dropped in negotiations with the Senate on the 2011 budget.
“Obviously, that’s the first place we’ll start looking,” Simpson said. “It’s going to be painful across the board” and “it might not be pretty, but we’ll do it,” he said.
Simpson also said many outside groups, recognizing lawmakers’ preoccupation with cutting spending, no longer come to him asking for budget increases.
“Now they’re coming in and saying ‘We’re not asking for any increases -- just don’t decrease our funding,” he said. “Flat funding is a really good thing.”
Lawmakers in April resolved a months-long fight over spending levels for the rest of this fiscal year. That plan fell short of Republican campaign promises to roll back domestic “discretionary” spending to 2008 levels, so lawmakers aim to finish the job with the plan unveiled today.
Health Care, Education
The proposal would cut health care and education programs by $18 billion, or 11.5 percent. Transportation and housing programs would face a 14 percent cut. Agriculture would fall by 13 percent, while foreign aid and other international programs would be cut by 18 percent.
The cuts are even larger when compared with the budget Obama proposed in February. The savings over that plan total $122 billion.
The new Republican plan doesn’t identify which specific programs would be cut. The appropriations panel divides its work among 12 subcommittees, and today’s proposal will allow each of those panels to begin drafting more detailed legislation within their budget caps. Two of those subcommittees, with jurisdiction over homeland security and veterans programs, are scheduled to begin work May 13. Rogers said he hoped nine of the 12 bills could clear the House in time for lawmakers’ August break.
Democrats who control the Senate are working on a budget plan that would allow the same process to begin in their chamber. Lawmakers in the House and Senate usually agree on a total amount they will spend before beginning to decide individual program budgets, though Senate Democrats are behind schedule and may not adopt a budget.
Rogers said he couldn’t afford to wait for the Senate. “We’d never get anything done if we waited on them,” he said.