US & World

Education, Heath, Labor See Big Cuts In Budget Deal

Much of the savings in the 2011 budget request prunes money left over from previous years and targets programs that President Obama had already identified. Some of Obama's pet projects, such as Pell grants for college students, managed to avoid the ax.

Details of the $38 billion in federal spending cuts hammered out last week just in time to avert a partial government shutdown reveal that the savings are as much about fancy accounting as hard-nosed bipartisan compromise.

More than half the cuts in the 2011 budget request — described as the largest-ever reduction in U.S. domestic spending — were in education, health and labor. Programs ranging from foreign aid and high-speed rail to those providing assistance for low-income mothers and children and community AIDS initiatives took sizable hits.

Many of the agencies that came in for the biggest cuts are those that Republicans have targeted because of philosophical differences. The Environmental Protection Agency, for example, would get a 16 percent drop in spending from fiscal 2010 levels.

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 pet projects, such as Pell grants for college students, health research and "Race to the Top" aid for public schools, managed to avoid the ax.

The Pentagon, except for some construction-related spending, reportedly eked out a modest increase of between $3 billion to $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 alternate 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.

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 to 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 dollars by no later than May 16 of this year.

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

NPR's John Ydstie and Paul Brown contributed to this report, which contains material from The Associated Press.

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