House Republicans seek deep cuts in spending
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republicans in the House of Representatives unveiled on Friday a plan for deep cuts in federal spending that sets up a showdown with President Barack Obama's Democrats that could shut down the government.
The proposal would impose immediate cuts of roughly 25 percent on the government's non-military operations, from transportation to scientific research.
The plan reflects the strength of Republicans in the House aligned with the conservative Tea Party movement and their vision of a dramatically scaled back federal government.
Republicans, who control the House, said it would be the largest spending cut on record. But the proposal has virtually no chance of becoming law because Obama and the Democrats who control the Senate are certain to oppose it.
Cuts of this magnitude would force the government to lay off tens of thousands of workers at a time when the U.S. unemployment rate stands at 9 percent, analysts say.
The plan also impedes the Obama administration's ability to move forward with some of its top priorities, from high-speed rail to addressing global warming.
Even as Congress struggles to set funding for the current fiscal year, which ends September 30, Washington is gearing up for another budget battle. Obama is set to release his budget proposal on Monday for the next fiscal year.
The Republican proposal sets up a showdown in the coming weeks in Congress as the House and the Senate must agree on funding levels to keep the federal government operating when current funding expires on March 4.
Lawmakers from both parties said they likely would seek a temporary extension beyond that date to buy more negotiating time. But Tea Party-aligned conservatives who helped sweep the Republicans into power in the House in November's congressional elections may run out of patience, a senior Republican said.
"At some point in time, some people are going to reject extending things," Representative Mike Simpson, who chairs the subcommittee that oversees spending for environmental and public lands programs, told reporters.
The 359-page spending plan represents the second attempt by Simpson and other senior House Republicans to satisfy the demands of the party's more conservative members, many of whom were elected on a promise to cut domestic spending programs back to their levels before Obama took office in 2009.
An earlier plan had sought $40 billion in immediate cuts in the current fiscal year, which began October 1. Conservatives said that did not live up to their election promises.
"You have to meet the expectations that you put out there and if you can exceed it," Representative Allen West, one of the House's 87 newly elected Republicans, told Reuters.
The new plan would cut those programs by $69 billion, while Pentagon spending would increase by $8 billion in the current fiscal year.
The Environmental Protection Agency would face an immediate budget cut of 55 percent and would be prohibited from regulating carbon dioxide, methane or other greenhouse gases.
Aid to Egypt would remain unchanged on the condition that it undertake economic and democratic reforms.
Cuts to food-safety programs mean that slaughterhouses left without required federal inspectors would have to close down for six to nine weeks, according to Democrats.
The Republican plan would block funding for White House officials overseeing efforts to combat climate change and implement Obama's healthcare overhaul law.
It also would block $2 billion left unspent from the president's 2009 economic stimulus package and would eliminate Obama's high-speed passenger rail effort.
The cuts would do little to close a U.S. budget deficit that is projected to hit a record $1.5 trillion this year, as the targeted programs account for roughly 13 percent of the government's $3.7 trillion budget.
(Editing by Will Dunham)
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