House Republicans Seek to Cut Funds for Environment, Energy, Health Care
House Republicans want to reduce the U.S. deficit by ending more than 60 programs, including President Barack Obama’s high-speed rail initiative, and cutting funds for the environment, energy, health care and law enforcement.
After releasing a partial list of proposed cuts yesterday, Republicans are scheduled today to spell out their full plan to trim at least $35 billion from the deficit, which is projected to reach $1.5 trillion this year. Republicans say the measure also will bar the Obama administration from spending any money to implement the 2010 health-care overhaul.
Republicans propose ending funds for the public service AmeriCorps, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and a program that provides contraceptives to low-income families. The Environmental Protection Agency’s budget would be cut by 16 percent below what Obama has requested.
“We will respond to the millions of Americans who have called on this Congress to rein in spending to help our economy grow,” House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, a Kentucky Republican, said in a statement. He also said, “Every dollar we cut has a constituency, an industry, an association or individual citizens who will disagree.”
The spending reductions would be made during this fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. Republicans plan to debate the measure next week and consider amendments from members of their party who seek deeper cuts.
Rebellion in Ranks
Republican leaders are confronting a rebellion in their ranks over the scope of the spending cuts. The party won control of the House on promises to shave the fiscal 2011 budget by $100 billion, and many of the 87 freshman Republicans vowed to scale back the size of government and are insisting that leaders keep their budget-cutting pledge.
The intra-party skirmish illustrates the difficulty leadership has in cultivating unity on several pending spending battles, including a vote to raise the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling. The Treasury Department expects the limit will be reached between April 5 and May 31. Many Republicans want deep spending cuts as a condition for raising it.
The Republican Study Committee, a group of fiscally conservative members, is demanding the party stick to its 2010 campaign promise to cut $100 billion from the current budget.
Resistance in Senate
Any plan that clears the House will meet resistance in the Democratic-controlled Senate. A current stopgap budget measure expires March 4.
“This administration strongly agrees that we have to make tough choices to bring down the deficit and get the country back on a sustainable path,” Kenneth Baer, a spokesman for the Office of Management and Budget, said in an e-mail. He pointed to Obama’s plan for a five-year freeze on non-security discretionary spending to save more than $400 billion over a decade.
“But to win the future, we cannot make cuts that undermine our ability to create jobs, drive innovation and compete in a global economy,” Baer said.
The Republican plan would cut funding to the National Institutes of Health, which includes the National Cancer Institute and other research facilities, by $1 billion, or 3.1 percent. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the agency responsible for tracking disease outbreaks, would get a reduction of $755 million, or about 12 percent.
Job-training programs would be cut by $2 billion. Funds for a program that helps low-income families heat and cool their homes would decrease by $400 million.
Objections From Democrats
Democrats say the cuts will hurt the most vulnerable Americans and harm the economic recovery.
“Democrats are committed to fiscal discipline, starting with an aggressive attack on waste, fraud, and abuse in our federal budget,” House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California said in a statement. “But we will not do so at the expense of good jobs, a strong middle class and a growing economy.”
Senator Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, said the Republican plan “would get rid of cops that keep our streets safe, food inspectors that keep our food safe, and cut home heating oil for seniors.”
Obama plans to release his proposed fiscal 2012 budget on Feb. 14. The president has called for a five-year freeze on discretionary spending, outside of national security.
Under spending caps the House Republicans previously announced, transportation and housing programs would receive cuts of 17 percent, while health and education programs would be reduced by 4 percent.
One of the biggest cuts, $1.6 billion, would hit the EPA. Administrator Lisa Jackson said about half the agency’s budget goes to help states “enforce our nation’s environmental laws.” She spoke to reporters yesterday and said she hadn’t seen the proposed cuts.
Legal assistance to the poor and the Internal Revenue Service would be targeted. Energy-efficiency and renewable- energy programs would lose $899 million. Republicans also want to cut $1.4 billion from a program that guarantees construction loans for new energy projects, such as nuclear reactors, electric transmission lines and solar arrays.
The proposal would eliminate $1 billion from spending on high-speed rail service, a priority for Obama. Community health centers, also championed by the president, would be cut by $1.3 billion.
A program started under former President Bill Clinton to put more police officers in local communities would lose $600 million.
AmeriCorps, slated for elimination under the plan, also was created under Clinton and set up a network of national service programs for Americans to serve in health care, education, public safety and the environment. Obama sought $914 million in spending authority for fiscal 2011 for AmeriCorps, up from $698 million in fiscal 2010, budget documents show.
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