Lawmakers to protest cuts in budget extender

While Congress appears to be on the verge of approving a two-week budget extension this week, the road to passage is likely to be strewn with complaints on the House and Senate floors about cuts to education, energy and water, health, and homeland security funding.

The bill would cut $4 billion from current spending levels, and it achieves about 30 percent of that savings by cutting spending to eight programs that President Obama singled out in his budget proposal. These include a $650 million cut in general highway spending and smaller cuts to election assistance grants, broadband direct loan subsidies through USDA, and the Smithsonian Institution legacy fund.

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The bill also cuts four programs at the Department of Education: the Striving Readers program, the Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnership (LEAP) program, Even Start and the Smaller Learning Communities program. These reductions total $468 million.

Cuts to these eight programs prompted Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to say last week that Republicans are proposing a "modified version of what Democrats were talking about." These comments are raising expectations that both parties will cooperate this week and approve an extension in some form.

But the bill also terminates $2.7 billion in earmark funding that at the very least can be expected to draw vocal opposition from Democrats. Nearly $1 billion of these terminations come from energy and water programs, including half a billion dollars from the Army Corps of Engineers' operations.

It cuts another $1 billion in earmarks to the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education as well as more than $500 million in earmarks to the Departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development, including $293 million in "surface transportation priorities," and $173 million to HUD's economic development initiative program.

Another $265 million is related to homeland security, including the termination of $128 million to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and $43 million to a Customs and Border Protection construction fund. These cuts could draw Republican opposition.

The House Rules Committee is expected to approve a rule for the bill Monday night, and the House will consider it on the floor Tuesday. House Republicans are hoping the Democrat-led Senate will take up the bill shortly thereafter because the bill currently funding the government expires on Friday.