WASHINGTON — Republicans now controlling the House promised Thursday to slash domestic agencies' budgets by almost 20 percent for the coming year, the first salvo in what's sure to be a bruising battle over their drive to cut spending to where it was before President Obama took office.
"Washington's spending spree is over," declared Paul Ryan, the House Budget Committee chairman who announced the plan. "The spending limits will restore sanity to a broken budget process," he said, returning "to pre-stimulus, pre-bailout levels."
Republicans won't get everything they want. Democrats are in charge of the White House and the Senate, and even House Republicans may have second thoughts when the magnitude of the cuts sinks in.
The White House says the GOP effort could cause widespread furloughs of federal employees, force vulnerable people off subsidized housing, reduce services in national parks and mean less aid to schools and police and fire departments.
House Republicans are seeking to keep their campaign promise to cut $100 billion from domestic programs. The initial cuts could win approval over the coming weeks as Congress wraps up the long-overdue 2011 budget. The second stage would come as the House GOP advances a fresh round of spending bills for the 2012 budget year, which begins Oct. 1.
The hardest hit agencies would include the Food and Drug Administration, the Internal Revenue Service and the departments of Commerce, Housing and Urban Development and Agriculture, according to partial details released by the House Appropriations Committee. Foreign aid on an annualized basis would take a 6 percent cut. Congress' own budget would be barely touched.
Conservative Republicans want even greater cuts, and they'll be given the chance to impose them in a floor debate scheduled for the week of Feb. 14.
Republicans made a campaign promise to cut $100 billion from Obama's request for domestic agencies such as the Department of Education, for the budget year that began last October. But that year is under way, and they're so far falling short, just $58 billion under the plan released Thursday. They promise to try to fully impose the cuts during what is sure to be a contentious debate.