* Deal would be biggest domestic spending cut in history
* Big cuts seen as victory for Republicans
* Still must resolve where cuts will fall
(Adds Biden comments, details)
By Andy Sullivan
WASHINGTON, March 30 A budget deal that could
impose the largest domestic spending cut in U.S. history took
shape in Congress on Wednesday as the threat of a government
Though Republicans and Democrats continued to trade jabs in
public, staffers from both parties began filling in the blanks
on a possible agreement that would cut roughly $33 billion in
spending during the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.
"We're all working off the same number now," said Vice
President Joe Biden after meeting with Senate Democratic
A cut of that magnitude would be a victory for Republicans,
who won control of the House of Representatives in last
November's congressional elections on a promise to slash
spending and scale back the reach of government amid worries
about the nation's fiscal situation.
It also would avoid a messy government shutdown when a
stopgap funding measure expires on April 8.
But the two sides still must resolve where those cuts will
President Barack Obama has said that education, scientific
research and other programs that lead to long-term economic
growth should be spared, and his fellow Democrats have proposed
cutting benefits like crop subsidies that normally are not
touched by the yearly budget cycle.
Republicans are pushing dozens of funding restrictions that
would prevent Obama from enacting priorities like greenhouse
gas regulation and the 2010 healthcare reform law.
For full budget coverage click on [ID:nN11152338]
PDF of budget coverage link.reuters.com/xym97r
The final figure may depend on which of those restrictions
are included in the final product.
"Nothing will be agreed to until everything is agreed to,"
said Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Speaker John
Because the fiscal year is already half over, a cut of $33
billion could mean severe pain for many domestic agencies. But
it would do little to plug a budget deficit that is projected
to hit $1.4 trillion this year.
Both parties acknowledge the need to trim budget deficits
that have hovered around 10 percent of GDP in recent years, but
differ on how quickly spending should be reduced and whether
taxes should also be raised to close the gap.
TRICKY BALANCING ACT
While Republicans have passed a spending bill through the
House that would slice $61 billion from the current budget,
Democrats have said cuts of that magnitude would hurt the
The measure has to pass both the Republican-controlled
House and the Democratic-controlled Senate. Boehner, in
particular, faces a tricky balancing act as he faces pressure
from conservatives aligned with the Tea Party movement who have
shown little appetite for compromise.
Tea Party groups plan a Thursday rally at the Capitol.
Boehner had to rely on Democratic votes to pass a temporary
funding measure to keep the government running earlier this
month after 54 Republicans refused to back it.
Enough House Democrats are expected to back a final
compromise to make up for any Republican defections this time,
though Boehner aims to keep Republican defections to a minimum,
according to aides.
The negotiations are complicated by the funding
restrictions that are included in the House-passed bill.
Budget-writing staffers on the House and Senate
appropriations committees are sorting through the less
controversial restrictions with the assumption that some of
them will be included in a final bill, aides said.
But the most controversial restrictions, which have drawn a
White House veto threat, remain unresolved.
"There are certain things we just are not going to do,"
(Additional reporting by Thomas Ferraro; editing by Will