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House Republicans to propose $6.2 trillion in spending cuts

The reduction, to take place over the next 10 years, is part of their 2012 budget blueprint that makes vast changes to the scope of federal government.

April 05, 2011|By Lisa Mascaro, Washington Bureau

Reporting from Washington — House Republicans will propose $6.2 trillion in spending cuts over the next decade Tuesday as part of their ambitious 2012 budget blueprint that will include vast changes to the size and scope of the federal government, amplifying the fiscal battle with the White House.

Such a spending reduction would dwarf President Obama's proposed fiscal 2012 budget, and the resulting political battle would dwarf the debate over spending in the remainder of the 2011 fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. The 2011 fracas has consumed Washington and risked a government shutdown while Congress tries to negotiate $33 billion in cuts.

The GOP proposal from Rep. Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), chairman of the House Budget Committee, would cut spending below 2008 levels, while substantially changing the way Medicare and Medicaid are run. According to a Ryan aide who spoke Monday night, it aims to cut $4.4 trillion from federal deficits — four times the $1.1 trillion that Obama proposes.

Ryan outlined the party's strategy in an op-ed piece for the Wall Street Journal that was posted on its website Monday night. Other details were made available to The Times.

Although the GOP budget is not expected to receive broad support in the Senate, where Democrats hold the majority, it offers a salvo in the fight between the Republican-led House and the Obama administration that will carry into the 2012 election. Republicans hope to portray themselves as the party with a plan to bring federal deficits under control.

Ryan's budget reflects the Republican preference for shrinking government as a way to expand the economy.

Democrats dismiss this strategy, saying that although some spending cuts are needed to rein in deficits, wholesale reductions in education, public works, research and other core government programs leave Americans unable to compete globally.

On tax policy, the GOP proposes to reduce the top corporate and individual income tax rates to 25%, from 35%, and to overhaul some corporate tax loopholes. But it does not expect to gain revenue through tax policy.

Democrats will seek to turn the conversation to the other side of the ledger, focusing on tax policy. They argue that corporate tax loopholes, particularly for the oil and gas industry, should be closed, and that tax cuts for millionaires should come to an end.

Budget hawks, including Obama's bipartisan fiscal commission, have recommended both spending cuts and tax policy changes to reduce deficits that fuel the national debt, which is approaching $14.3 trillion.

Obama declined to incorporate the commission's recommendations into his 2012 budget blueprint, released this year. The president's budget would trim $1.1 trillion from deficits over the next decade and cut $400 billion by freezing spending on domestic programs.

It was not immediately clear whether the GOP budget proposed new spending. But in reducing spending below 2008 levels, Ryan would cut the federal workforce and eliminate Pentagon inefficiencies that Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has targeted. Agricultural supports would also be trimmed, which is likely to draw criticism from Democrats and Republicans alike.

Ryan has already been chastised for his proposals to overhaul Medicare and Medicaid, showing just how difficult it is to change longstanding federal safety net programs.

In an acknowledgment of the difficulty in addressing such issues, the GOP budget does not appear to address the growing imbalances expected in Social Security in coming years. The deficit commission said in its report late last year that so-called entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare had to be part of the budget solution.

Shifting the debate to the 2012 budget comes at an opportune time for Republicans amid conservative pressure to reduce spending for 2011.

Veteran Republican lawmakers have been encouraging the large freshman class, which has demanded steeper budget cuts this year, to move on to the bigger philosophical debate provided by the 2012 budget.

The House Budget Committee is expected to begin hearings on the GOP budget quickly. A floor vote could come as soon as next week.

lisa.mascaro@latimes.com

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