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GOP Moves Ahead With Deep Cuts to Transportation, Housing

The House Appropriations Committee voted last night to move ahead with deep spending cuts, totaling $32 billion, to the remainder of the FY2011 budget. It’s still not the $100 billion the GOP wanted to cut, and some committee Republicans voted no, saying the cuts were still too small.

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Tell that to Americorps volunteers, who will see their entire program eliminated, along with the entire federal allocation for public broadcasting and family planning and about 60 other government programs, according to the Associated Press. The plan takes an enormous bite out of transportation programs, eliminating $1 billion for high-speed rail and $224 million for Amtrak (notably, not as severe a cut as the one proposed by the conservative Republican Study Committee, which would have axed Amtrak’s entire federal subsidy). The HUD Community Development Fund stands to lose $530 million. Energy and environmental programs are taking a big hit too, with many EPA programs on the chopping block.

Appropriations Committee Chair Hal Rogers (R-KY) claimed the cuts “represent the largest reduction in discretionary spending in the history of our nation.” But he announced them with more sobriety than bluster.

Make no mistake, these cuts are not low-hanging fruit. These cuts are real and will impact every District across the country - including my own. As I have often said, every dollar we cut has a constituency, an industry, an association, and individual citizens who will disagree with us. But with this [budget], we will respond to the millions of Americans who have called on this Congress to rein in spending to help our economy grow and our businesses create jobs.

As several Democrats have said, it’s subject to debate whether a bill that cuts so much spending will create jobs. Politico quotes committee Democrat David Price as calling that claim “wishful thinking.”

The GOP says it’s cutting $74 billion, but from what? They’re using as their baseline numbers the president’s budget request for FY2011, which was never enacted. When you compare the Republican proposal to last year’s actual, approved budget, the cuts are just $32 billion.

Congress was unable to approve a 2011 budget last year, and so federal spending has been operating under a series of extensions, called continuing resolutions, since the fall. What Congress is working on now is also called a continuing resolution, but it doesn’t just keep spending at 2010 levels, as previous CRs have done. This time, Congress wants to actually make its mark on the budget for the remaining seven months of the year.

The Appropriations proposal will go to the floor for consideration next week. At the same time that Congress is trying to work out the budget for the rest of 2011, the Obama administration will release its budget request for 2012 – just to make things really confusing.

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