House Republicans called for cuts in hundreds of government programs Friday night in a $61-billion savings package they toughened at the demand of “tea party"-backed conservatives.
From education to job training, the environment and nutrition, few domestic programs werewould be left untouched — and some werewould be eliminated — in the measure, which is expected to reach the floor for a vote next week.
Among the programs targeted for elimination are Americorps and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
In contrast, spending on defense and veterans’ programs were protected.
The measure marks an initial down payment by newly empowered Republicans on their promise to rein in federal deficits and reduce the size of government.
In a statement, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) called the measure “a historic effort to get our fiscal house in order and restore certainty to the economy. This legislation will mark the largest spending cut in modern history and will help restore confidence so that people can get back to work.”
Democrats harshly criticized the bill, signaling the onset of weeks of partisan struggle over spending priorities.
House Democraticminority leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) issued a statement calling the bill irresponsible, adding that it would “target critical education programs like Head Start, halt innovation and disease research, end construction projects to rebuild America and take cops off the beat.”
But first-term Republican conservatives claimed victory after forcing their own leadership to expand the measure.
"$100 billion is $100 billion is $100 billion,” said Rep. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), referring to the amount the revised package would cut from President Obama’s budget request of a year ago.
That was the amount contained in the Republican “Pledge to America” in last fall’s campaign, and when party leaders initially suggested a smaller package of cuts this week, many of the 87-member freshman class who have links to the tea party rebelled.
But Obama’s budget was never enacted, so the GOP proposal isn’t as far-reaching when compared towith actual spending. Even some Republicans acknowledged privately that the legislation would cut about $61 billion, not $100 billion.
Some of the largest cuts would be borne by WIC, which provides nutritional support for women and infants, cut by $747 million, and training and employment grants to the states, ticketed for a $1.4-billion reduction.
In addition, Republicans proposed a 43% cut in border security fencing and a 53% reduction in an account used to fund cleanup of the Great Lakes.
The measure also asserts Republican priorities in several contentious areas.
It prohibits the Nuclear Regulatory Commission from terminating plans for a nuclear waste site at Yucca Mountain in Nevada — a direct challenge to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).
Reid dissented quickly, issuing a statement that said, “Any attempt to restart the Yucca Mountain project will not happen on my watch as Senate majority leader.”
The cuts will become part of a spending bill that is needed to keep the government operating through Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year. The current funding authority expires on March 4.
Passage in the Republican-controlled House would send the bill to the Senate, where Democrats control a majority and are certain to support more generous funding levels.