A key House committee Tuesday approved the broad outlines of a GOP plan to sharply curb domestic programs and foreign aid, but it wasn’t enough for a handful of Republicans on the panel who promised to try to cut the measure even further during floor debate next week.
The House Appropriations Committee approved the spending blueprint on a 27-22 vote that featured defections by GOP Reps. Jeff Flake of Arizona and Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming, who wanted even further cuts, and the reluctant support of freshman Rep. Tom Graves of Georgia, who urged panel Chairman Harold Rogers of Kentucky to join tea-party-backed efforts to cut spending even more.
The panel was not voting on actual legislation, just a general outline of where the budget might be cut when Republicans bring the sprawling measure to the floor for what is certain to be a freewheeling debate. The measure promises to roll back spending to the levels in place when President Obama took office, but it will still carry a total price tag exceeding $1.2 trillion after war costs are added.
Much of that money already has been spent under the terms of a stopgap spending bill that expires March 4. With the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, it’s proving impossible for Republicans to cut Mr. Obama’s domestic and foreign aid budget by the $100 billion they promised during the fall campaign.
The detailed version of the measure is due out later this week and its cuts are sure to provoke howls of outrage from Democrats responsible for shepherding generous spending increases onto the books after Mr. Obama assumed office.
“They will make the job situation worse, they will hurt the middle class, they will hurt working families,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro, Connecticut Democrat.
Because the government has been running at levels below Mr. Obama’s budget submission a year ago, panel Republicans are producing $43 billion in cuts from domestic agency and foreign aid budgets when compared with levels enacted for 2010. Once increases for the Pentagon are taken into account, those savings total $35 billion.
Republican leaders prefer a different math, pegged to Mr. Obama’s original budget requests. They point to $58 billion in savings through the end of the year, compared with Mr. Obama’s hopes for domestic agencies. That rises to $74 billion after defense cuts are folded into the mix.
While too small for conservatives, the cuts would impose a 9 percent reduction, on average, in foreign aid and the domestic programs whose 2001 budgets still need to be passed by Congress. Through the final seven months of the budget year, they’ll feel more like 16 percent since the cuts would be compressed into a shorter time frame.
Republicans responsible for drawing up pieces of the bill promise to protect law enforcement agencies such as the FBI, as well as some programs for the vulnerable, including subsidized housing vouchers for the poor. Rep. Frank R. Wolf, Virginia Republican and the lead lawmaker on science programs and the Justice Department, offered assurances that “NASA’s going to be OK,” but he’s sure to cut money for police departments that has proved popular with local officials in every congressional district.
“You’re not going to see a meat ax,” said Rep. Mike Simpson, Idaho Republican, noting that the GOP measure follows “huge, huge increases” put in place under Mr. Obama. He promised to try to protect the health services for American Indians as much as possible.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Virginia Republican, told reporters earlier in the day that he expects House Republicans will pass the funding bill with a restriction denying Mr. Obama the money to implement key programs under his signature health care overhaul bill.