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U.S. Congress girds for fight over expected Trump spending cuts

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Trump administration is preparing to submit to the U.S. Congress up to $25 billion in immediate spending cuts, including possible reductions to social safety net programs, lawmakers said on Wednesday, in a move that could upend a budget deal enacted last month.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during his Oval Office meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron (not pictured) following the official arrival ceremony for Macron at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 24, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

The White House plan, which has not yet been unveiled, would call on Congress to rescind funding already enacted into law. It likely would be submitted next month, sometime after a recess that ends on May 7.

Veteran House of Representatives Republican Tom Cole told reporters that the package of proposed cuts was being scaled back from the $60 billion initially floated by the administration.

He added that it could include cuts of funds appropriated for 2016 and 2017 that have not been spent. “And they’re also looking at some mandatory adjustments” that Cole said “Democrats probably wouldn’t like” but are outside the scope of a two-year budget deal enacted earlier this year.

Mandatory programs include Social Security for retirees, Medicare and Medicaid healthcare for the elderly, disabled and poor and other welfare benefits.

In its fiscal 2018 budget proposal, the Trump administration called for deep reductions in mandatory spending, totaling around $2 trillion over a decade.

Cole and other senior House Republicans warned the White House against using the “recissions” process to target programs backed by Democrats while leaving untouched Republican priorities that largely were aimed at pumping up defense spending.

Former House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, referring to the bipartisan budget deal that was laboriously negotiated by Republicans and Democrats and signed into law by President Donald Trump, said, “We made commitments to them and they made commitments to us.

“I don’t like going back on my word,” the Republican lawmaker added.

Rogers said he feared a new fight over spending “would really gum up the works” as Congress tries to pass appropriations bills for the fiscal year that begins on Oct. 1.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, has expressed his opposition to reopening the fiscal 2018 budget fights that raged last year and early this year.

Nevertheless, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy has been working with White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney on a recissions package, lawmakers said. Such spending cuts would appeal to House conservatives, who would play a significant role in McCarthy’s drive to replace retiring House Speaker Paul Ryan.

Reporting By Richard Cowan; editing by Jonathan Oatis