House Republicans Seek Cuts in Pell Grants, Public Radio

House Republicans announced plans to cut funding for Pell college tuition grants, NPR and other Democratic priorities, setting up another contentious round of negotiations on the federal budget.

The House Appropriations Committee today called for eliminating more than 30 education programs, including President Barack Obama’s “Race to the Top” initiative. The panel proposed slashing the Department of Labor’s budget by one-fifth, slicing funds for the National Labor Relations Board by 17 percent and barring funds to implement Obama’s health-care overhaul. It would also withhold funding for Planned Parenthood unless it says it will stop providing abortions.

The provisions are included in a $153.4 billion measure needed to fund the departments of Health and Human Services, Education and Labor for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. The Republicans’ plan would amount to $4 billion cut or about 2.5 percent less than this year. The committee estimated the plan provides 15 percent less than the administration sought in its February budget request.

“To protect critical programs and services that many Americans rely on -- especially in this time of fiscal crisis -- this bill takes decisive action to cut duplicative, inefficient and wasteful spending to help get these agency budgets onto sustainable financial footing,” said Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, a Kentucky Republican, in a statement.

Democratic Opposition

Democrats denounced the proposed cuts.

“After a year of contentious budget debates, radical proposals from the new majority and multiple threats of government shutdowns” there “had been hope that we’d be able to put all that behind us for a while,” said Representative Rosa DeLauro, a Connecticut Democrat on the spending panel.

“Judging from these proposals, though, the Republican majority doesn’t seem to be on board for that goal” and “it looks like we’re in for a long, difficult process,” DeLauro said in a statement.

Republicans unveiled the legislation the same day Congress gave final approval to a stopgap budget measure funding the government until Oct. 4. The Senate approved the plan Sept. 26 to end a partisan standoff over federal disaster aid that had threatened a government shutdown.

Nov. 18

The House plans next week to take up a second measure that would keep federal agencies operating until Nov. 18 while lawmakers negotiate budget levels for the rest of the 2012 fiscal year. Congress hasn’t completed work on any of the 12 annual appropriations bills that establish funding levels for hundreds of programs.

The legislation announced today revives cuts Republicans proposed and ultimately dropped earlier this year. Among them are proposals to end federal funding for the public radio network NPR and eliminate the Americorps volunteer program, a Clinton administration initiative.

The maximum Pell grant would continue to be $5,550 under the Republican plan, which would cut $3.6 billion from the program next year though a series of changes. Grants would be eliminated for students who don’t have a high school diploma or the equivalent as well as for those going to college less than half-time. The maximum number of semesters a student could receive a grant would be cut to 12 semesters from 18.

Among the winners in the bill is the National Institutes of Health, which would see a 3.3 percent budget increase, matching the administration’s request. Head Start, an early childhood development program, would get a $540 million increase, as requested by the White House. The House bill also would set aside $20 million to promote sexual-abstinence education.

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