House panel approves spending cuts, assumes more to come

WASHINGTON Tue May 21, 2013 8:50pm EDT

A general view of the U.S. Capitol building in Washington February 28, 2013. REUTERS/Jason Reed

A general view of the U.S. Capitol building in Washington February 28, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Jason Reed

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Appropriations Committee of the House of Representatives made clear on Tuesday that automatic spending cuts will be a recurring nightmare for Washington as it passed a measure to sharply reduce funding for government agencies and programs next year.

The Republican-controlled committee approved a $967 billion discretionary spending cap - the lowest in a decade - for the 2014 fiscal year that starts on October 1. That is an $80 billion reduction from the current fiscal year.

Government agencies are struggling with $85 billion in automatic cuts, known in Washington as the "sequester," that began in March and will last through September 30. The committee's action assumes that Congress will not act to stop the next year's installment of $109 billion in cuts.

To make the most of the dwindling discretionary funds for everything from the military to education and national parks, the committee is shifting money toward the Republicans' priorities of defense and homeland security and away from domestic programs that Democrats favor.

"This is in no way ideal, but this is the hand that sequestration is dealing us," said Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers, adding that the panel is applying cuts with "sharp scissors and clear heads."

The committee passed the first of its appropriations bills on Tuesday, providing $73 billion for military construction and the Veterans Administration, slightly above this year's post-sequester levels.

On Wednesday, the panel will vote on its $38.9 billion Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill, which is $981 million above the current post-sequester level but $617 million lower than last year.

Democrats on the committee complained that these shifts will require domestic spending cuts so deep that some bills, such as funding for the Departments of Labor and Health and Human Services, won't win enough support for passage.

"These funding levels are simply not workable," said Representative Jose Serrano, a New York Democrat.

Although several lawmakers held out hope that a comprehensive budget deal this year would turn off the automatic cuts and allow for higher discretionary spending levels, there has been no movement on Capitol Hill toward that goal in recent weeks.

The House panel's actions are also setting up a potential clash with the Democratic-controlled Senate Appropriations Committee, which is preparing to pass spending bills at a much higher cap of $1.058 trillion - a level specified in a budget deal two years ago.

That means even if the House can muster enough support to pass its appropriations bills with deep cuts, it will then face a $91 billion difference with the Senate bills, adding to already deep differences over taxes, spending and a looming deadline to raise the government's debt limit in the fall.

If Congress fails to approve appropriations bills in time for the October 1 start of the new fiscal year, it will instead need another stop-gap funding measure to avoid a government shutdown.

(Reporting By David Lawder; editing by Christopher Wilson)

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Comments (1)
flashrooster wrote:
It’s always the same with Republicans, cut taxes for the wealthy, cut everything else for everyone else. But the real goal is to weaken the power of anyone in the Federal government who might stand in the way of the profiteers and their profits. That’s a bit different than simply weakening the power of the Federal government, though that will certainly be one of the outcomes. You can be as powerful as you want in the Federal government as long as you serve the interests of the ruling plutocrats. That’s why when there’s a Democrat in the White House the Republicans do everything in their power to destroy their Presidency and they preach “small government.” When there’s a Republican in the White House, they can exert as much power as they want and the cries for smaller government and less spending evaporate. This is not going to end well.

It will be interesting to see how much the Republicans spend to defeat Sen. Elizabeth Warren in her next election. Imagine if she ran for President. She’s just the kind of politician that the ruling plutocrats want to eliminate.

May 21, 2013 11:54pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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