11:40am

Tue April 12, 2011
Politics

Education, Heath, Labor See Big Cuts In Budget Deal

Spending on education, health, transportation and the environment took a big hit in the compromise budget deal agreed on last week, but accounting gimmicks also played a key role in the largest-ever cuts in U.S. domestic programs.

The cuts were targeted at programs ranging from FEMA grants to first responders and high-speed-rail projects, to assistance for low-income mothers and children and community AIDS initiatives.

Many of the agencies that came in for cuts were those that have long been in Republican sights for partisan or ideological reasons. AmeriCorps — a program of national service started by President Clinton — has long been a GOP target. It saw a $138 million cut. Funds for community health centers and HIV/AIDs and tuberculosis prevention were cut by about $2 billion, according to the House figures.

Cuts for the development of energy efficiency and renewable energy, and research money for the National Science Foundation came out to about another $1 billion in cuts from Obama's FY2011 request. Money to promote clean drinking water and land and water conservation would also be cut drastically under the new spending measure, according to the House figures.

Contributions to the U.N. and international organizations and overseas economic assistance would fall more than $2 billion.

For the first time ever, spending on homeland security would be reduced, by about 2 percent from 2010. There would be more than $1 billion in cuts in grants to first responders and to the Transportation Security Administration for aviation security.

There's some confusion over how much of the high-speed-rail funds would be lost. House Republicans said they've cut $2.5 billion from the account for this year and have rescinded $400 million from the previous year's funds — for a total reduction of $2.9 billion from 2010. But the Department of Transportation said Congress appropriated $2.5 billion last year, most of which has not been spent.

But much of the savings negotiated by President Obama, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) came from such items as unused children's health insurance, leftover census funds and highway programs.

Some of Obama's most visible proposals, such as health research, "Race to the Top" aid for public schools and college Pell Grants — except those for summer school — managed to avoid the ax.

The Pentagon, except for some construction-related spending, reportedly eked out a modest increase of between $3 billion and $5 billion more than last year. The budget bill also includes additional funding for overseas contingency operations (emergency funding) to advance missions abroad. Development of an alternative engine for the F-35 fighter jet, work on which was suspended last month, will not go forward.

The chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY), said in a statement Tuesday that the committee had gone line by line through agency budgets to "craft deep but responsible reductions in virtually all areas of government."

There were signs Tuesday that congressional Republicans were split over support for the bill.

Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio said in a statement Tuesday that while some of his GOP colleagues will support the compromise announced late Friday night, he believes "voters are asking us to set our sights higher."

Jordan heads the Republican Study Committee. He said the committee had pushed for a full $100 billion in cuts from President Obama's budget.

Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana also said he probably won't vote for the measure, and Tea Party favorite Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota has said she will vote no. Rep. Tim Huelskamp of Kansas wrote on his Facebook page that the $38 billion in cuts "barely make a dent" in the deficit.

Huelskamp and other conservatives are upset that most conservative policy "riders" added by Republicans were dropped from the legislation in the course of the talks.

The White House rejected GOP attempts to block the Environmental Protection Agency's ability to issue global warming rules and other reversals of environmental regulations. Obama also forced Republicans to drop an effort to cut off Planned Parenthood from federal funding, as well as GOP moves to stop implementation of Obama's overhauls of health care and Wall Street regulation.

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which grants funds to both public television and NPR, would receive about the same level of funding as in the previous allocation, according to the preliminary House figures.

Anti-abortion lawmakers did, however, succeed in winning a provision to block taxpayer-funded abortions in the District of Columbia. And Boehner won funding for a personal initiative to provide federally funded vouchers for District of Columbia students to attend private schools.

With a 2011 budget deal in place, the president planned to turn his attention to longer-term solutions to the perennial budget dilemma.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Obama was expected to outline his ideas for a leaner, less debt-ridden government in a speech Wednesday at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

"The speech will, once again, demonstrate the president's seriousness about deficit reduction," Carney said. "He hopes that it will signal to members of Congress in both parties that he wants to work with them in a bipartisan way to address these issues."

Meanwhile, the Republican-controlled House is expected to vote this week on its own future budget proposal, spearheaded by Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. Ryan told NBC's Meet the Press over the weekend that his plan would overhaul the tax code, cutting the top personal and corporate income tax rates to 25 percent.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said last week that the U.S. government will reach the current debt limit of $14.3 trillion no later than May 16.

Republicans have vowed to use the vote on raising the debt ceiling to force further cuts in government spending.

NPR's John Ydstie, Audie Cornish, David Welna and Paul Brown contributed to this report, which contains material from The Associated Press Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.