Republicans Trying to 'Stop the Spending Spree'

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:31 PM EDT

( - House Republicans leaders have postponed a vote, originally scheduled for Thursday, on a budget-cutting amendment that House Democrats strongly oppose.

The measure -- which would cut federal benefit programs by $50 billion over five years -- will be taken up next week instead, after Republicans round up more support for it.

(The 2006 budget resolution, which Congress adopted in April, calls for $35 billion in spending cuts over five years, but the measure the House was to have voted on Thursday increased those spending cuts to $50 billion.)

Some conservatives, concerned about the deficit and the cost of hurricane recovery, want to spread the spending cuts over all federal agencies, not just programs such as food stamps and Medicaid. Over the next week, Republican leaders plan to expand the list of programs to be cut, to garner more Republican support for the measure.

They won't get much help from Democrats.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, and Rep. John Spratt, the ranking member on the House Budget Committee, sent a letter to Speaker Dennis Hastert on Wednesday, urging him to table the budget resolution amendment that would hurt "working families, while increasing tax cuts for the wealthy."

In their letter to Hastert, the Democrats complained that the deeper spending cuts could harm millions of working families who depend on critical programs such as Medicaid, food stamps and student loans.

The Democrats said the proposal to increase mandatory spending cuts to $50 billion has more to do with offsetting the cost of new tax cuts than it does with offsetting the cost of hurricane recovery.

"Democrats are unified," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi: "These cuts were only in the interests of Republican special interest cronies, and would have devastating consequences on those who need our help most -- hurricane survivors, students, seniors, and rural Americans."

House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) said it's not surprising that Democratic leaders would oppose a "spending restraint" amendment.

"They have one strategy: to tax and spend with reckless disregard for the budget, the economy or American jobs," Hastert said.

He noted that the Gulf Coast must be rebuilt after one of the worst natural disasters in U.S. history. "The citizens of the Gulf Coast deserve that. But this Congress must also be mindful of taxpayer dollars and the federal budget," Hastert said.

"I'm disappointed that at a time when America needs to pull together and do the right thing for the sake of future generations, Leader Pelosi is throwing around reckless comments that simply are irresponsible."

Hastert said future generations will bear the burden unless the Democratic leadership agrees to "stop the spending spree" right now.

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