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House Republicans to propose deeper budget cuts

In a victory for conservative freshmen in Congress, House leaders will offer a new budget proposal to provide the $100 billion in cuts that Republican leaders promised voters last fall. The plan may require job losses in government agencies.

February 11, 2011|By Lisa Mascaro, Washington Bureau

Reporting from Washington — On the heels of an uprising by rookie Republican lawmakers, House leaders Friday will unveil a new budget proposal that instructs appropriators to slice deeper to reduce the 2011 budget by the $100 billion the GOP promised voters last fall.

The new proposal is expected to produce steep cuts and may require job losses in government agencies, putting some elected officials in the difficult position of choosing between fiscal austerity or employment opportunity as the nation continues to struggle with high unemployment during the economic recovery.

Leadership's abrupt decision to re-craft the legislation was a victory for freshmen conservatives, who complained that the earlier proposal didn't go far enough, but it tightens an already narrow window for congressional action to fund the government for the remainder of the fiscal year. Congress faces a March 4 deadline to approve legislation and avoid a government shutdown.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Thursday he is working to "make sure that this cut is as big as possible to send a signal that we're serious about cutting spending here in Washington."

But leaders acknowledged that fulfilling the campaign pledge that had been based on a full fiscal year's savings with now only seven months remaining would require painful cuts.

House Republicans have measured the proposed reductions against President Obama's 2011 spending plan, which was never enacted, making the actual cuts from current spending levels less than $100 billion – though still deeper than many lawmakers may realize.

The Senate is unlikely to agree to such a spending plan, even as some Republican senators have embraced the GOP pledge. Sen. Patrick Toomey (R-Pa.) and 10 other Republican senators recently urged Boehner to uphold the promised $100-billion in reductions.

Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, after returning from an afternoon meeting with his counterpart in the House on Thursday, said simply of the $100 billion in reductions: "It seems huge."

lmascaro@tribune.com

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