The Washington Times - February 11, 2011, 01:26PM

Senate Democrats have argued that Congress should focus on cutting waste and removing tax breaks for oil companies rather than tackle major spending cuts, but Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Friday said cuts will have to go deeper than just waste.

“What we’re cutting here is not just waste. We have to actually cut some muscle,” the vice president said at the McConnell Center at the University of Louisville. Mr. Biden was invited by Sen. Mitch McConnell, Republicans’ Senate leader and the man who the center is named after.

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The scope and depth of spending cuts is the dominant issue on Capitol Hill, where House Republicans have called for deep, substantial reductions, and congressional Democrats have argued those cuts go too far.

Senate Democrats in particular have settled on a strategy that calls for agreeing to cut waste, but opposing most cuts as attacks on what they said amounts to investment.

“We need to make sure we’re cutting waste and excess, not making deep cuts in programs that are creating jobs, educating our workforce and helping our economy grow,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, told reporters Thursday.

House Republicans have said they will cut at least $100 billion from President Obama’s proposed 2011 budget in the spending bill the GOP will send to the House floor next week.

Seeking to find some areas for cuts, the White House will reportedly propose cutting heating assistance funds in the 2012 budget the president sends to Congress next week.

But Mr. Reid rejected that approach Friday.

“I personally am not a big fan of cutting the — what we’ve done with LIHEAP (Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program). I think we do some very good things for the people that are the poorest of the poor,” he said.

He said there are opportunities instead to cut from repetitive job-training programs.

Mr. Biden, speaking in Kentucky, defended the Obama administration’s calls to cut funding for community development block grants and other programs, saying that while those programs would be nice to have, the country can’t afford them.

Still, he did draw a line around certain areas of spending, saying the federal government needs to continue paying for transportation infrastructure, technology, science and education.

“To win the future, in my view, we cannot postpone investing in the future,” he said.

Mr. Biden also praised December’s tax deal, which saw a full extension of most Bush-era tax cuts and of unemployment benefits, saying it has helped contribute to recent positive economic signs.

“It actually not only was a compromise but it was a compromise that was useful for the economy,” he said, praising Mr. McConnell for working with the administration to get that done. “We both got beat up but we knew we were doing the right thing.”