House GOP to Endorse pre-Obama Spending Levels

By Andrew Taylor | January 25, 2011 | 11:26 AM EST

Washington (AP) - Republicans controlling the House are putting members on record in favor of cutting the day-to-day budgets for domestic Cabinet agencies back to the levels in place before President Barack Obama won the White House.

Tuesday's vote comes on a nonbinding resolution that promises cuts approaching 20 percent of the budgets for agencies like the Education and Commerce departments when Congress wraps up the long-overdue budget for the current fiscal year. The White House warns that such cuts would mean furloughs of tens of thousands of federal workers.

"The time to exercise our power of the purse with discipline and restraint is long overdue," said Rep. David Dreier, R-Calif. "We must return to pre-bailout, pre-binge levels of funding for the federal government."

The actual GOP cuts would be made in a follow-up spending bill slated to advance next month and are sure to encounter strong resistance from the Democratic-controlled Senate and from Obama.

Republicans say the measure is the first step in keeping a campaign promise to cut $100 billion from Obama's budget for the current year. The actual savings would be less - about $84 billion - since Obama's budget increases were never passed. And because the budget year has been under way since Oct. 1, GOP leaders say they can't deliver the cuts by the Sept. 30 end of the fiscal year; instead, they say they will spread them over a full calendar year.

Even that is not sufficient for many House conservatives. Almost 100 conservatives Monday wrote House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, urging him to cut the full amount over the final seven months of fiscal 2011 - a prospect the White House warns would require slashing agency budgets by almost one-third, leading to the massive furloughs and the gutting of critical programs and agencies.

"We're going to reduce spending levels for the remainder of the fiscal year," said Majority leader Eric Cantor, R-Va.

Boehner said Tuesday that conservatives would be allowed to offer amendments to cut spending further and that the "House will work its will."

Even newly elected conservatives may recoil when they see the specific cuts that would be required to fulfill the promise: smaller Pell Grants, less aid to hometown school districts and cuts to NASA that could cost jobs in GOP-leaning Texas and Alabama.

Democrats say that while they agree with the need to wrestle the budget under control, it's unwise to slash the budget immediately since the economic recovery is just taking hold. At the same time, they're ready to defend programs aimed at helping the poor, such as subsidized housing, food aid for low-income pregnant women and heating subsidies.