Wednesday, February 9, 2011

First the Obama HSR lottery; then the Republican budget cutting

The HSR related cuts, below, are in bold. I get it now. Obama beats the Republicans by announcing a $53 billion HSR program.  Then, the Republicans respond with their threat of cuts, including a $1 billion HSR cut.  I know this doesn't make any sense, but it will be a race to the bottom, for sure.  In other words, the political budget swords are now flashing in the Washington sunlight.  It's only round one.

Stay tuned.

Republican Cuts Target Environment, Transportation
By Brian Faler and Catherine Dodge - Feb 9, 2011 11:38 AM PT
More than 60 government programs, including the public service AmeriCorps, would be eliminated, while scores more in areas such as health, transportation and law enforcement would be cut in House Republicans’ initial effort to reduce federal spending.

Environmental programs, high-speed rail, nutritional aid to pregnant woman, and arts programs would be targeted for savings under a partial list of cuts released today. Along with AmeriCorps, funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting would be ended. The spending reductions would be made during the remainder of this fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.

“Every dollar we cut has a constituency, an industry, an association or individual citizens who will disagree with us,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, a Kentucky Republican.

Still, he said in a statement, “We will respond to the millions of Americans who have called on this Congress to rein in spending to help our economy grow.”

Rogers said his committee tomorrow will release a full list of cuts totaling $35 billion, compared with last year’s spending. The cuts also represent $74 billion in savings from what President Barack Obama proposed in his 2011 budget.

More Cuts Sought

House Republicans aim to put the plan to a floor vote next week, though not before colleagues seeking additional cuts are given a chance to amend the legislation. The Republican Study Committee, a bloc of fiscally conservative lawmakers, is demanding the party stick to its 2010 campaign promise to cut $100 billion.

Next week’s measure would continue funding the government for the rest of the fiscal year. A current stopgap measure expires March 4.

The Republican budget-cutting plan sets up a battle with Democrats, who control the Senate.

“We need to cut spending, but we need to do it by focusing on waste,” Senator Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, said in a statement.

“This proposal would get rid of cops that keep our streets safe, food inspectors that keep our food safe, and cut home heating oil for seniors,” he said. “These are extreme ideas that will take the country backwards, and the House Republicans seem too willing to shut down the government to get their way.”

‘Shortsighted Plan’

House Democrats say the cuts will hurt the most vulnerable and harm the economic recovery.

“House Republicans have introduced a shortsighted plan that does not distinguish between necessary cuts, and cuts to investments that are critical to our continued economic recovery,” according to a statement from Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer’s office.

Obama will release his proposed fiscal 2012 budget on Feb. 14. The president has called for a five-year freeze on discretionary spending, outside of national security.

Under spending caps the House Republicans previously announced, transportation and housing programs would see cuts of 17 percent, while health and education programs would be reduced by 4 percent.

Republican leaders have backed away from their vow to make the full $100 billion in cuts because the government’s fiscal year is almost half over.

EPA Targeted

The list released today includes proposed cuts to programs including the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Science Foundation, Amtrak and the Food and Drug Administration.

One of the biggest cuts, $1.6 billion, hits the Environmental Protection Agency.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said about half the agency’s budget goes to states to “enforce our nation’s environmental laws.” She spoke to reporters after testifying before a House panel on her agency’s greenhouse gas regulations, and said she hadn’t yet seen the proposed cuts.

Legal assistance to the poor, law enforcement, the Internal Revenue Service and energy-efficiency programs would be targeted. Republicans also want to cut $1.4 billion from a U.S. program that guarantees construction loans for new energy projects, such as nuclear reactors, electric transmission lines and solar arrays.

Clinton Program

The proposal would eliminate $1 billion from spending on high-speed rail service. Community health centers, championed by Obama, would be cut by $1.3 billion. Energy-efficiency and renewable-energy programs would lose $899 million.

A program started under former President Bill Clinton to put more police officers in local communities would lose $600 million.

AmeriCorps, slated for elimination under the plan, also was created under Clinton and set up a network of national service programs for Americans to serve in health care, education, public safety and the environment.

Obama asked Congress for $914 million in spending authority for fiscal 2011 for AmeriCorps, up from $698 million in fiscal 2010, budget documents show. If approved, it would have increased the AmeriCorps program to a record 105,000 members, up 20,000 from the year-earlier figure.

AmeriCorps is the largest unit of the Corporation for National and Community Service, which includes other community- service groups such as Senior Corps.

To contact the reporters on this story: Catherine Dodge in Washington at Brian Faler in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at