House Dems outraged after learning of cuts in GOP spending plan

Democrats on Friday expressed outrage as they learned the details of planned spending cuts for 2014 formulated by Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee.

The committee has circulated an outline for federal spending based, as required, on the House-passed budget from Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). The plan hits social welfare and foreign aid programs with reductions nearly 20 percent below current spending levels.

The budget envisions a top-line spending level of $966 billion, $12 billion below the current spending level that was already reduced by sequestration The House budget increases spending on defense, however, forcing even deeper cuts to domestic discretionary spending.

The House Appropriations Committee outline — known in budget parlance as 302b allocations — makes clear that the heaviest cuts will fall on health, education, jobs programs, foreign aid and environmental programs. 

“The disinvestment proposed for health, education, and labor programs reveal that the majority believes that poor people, kids, college students, sick people, the unemployed and the disabled should just fend for themselves,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), ranking member on the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee.

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The allocation for the Labor, HHS bill is $122 billion, an 18 percent cut from the $150 billion in effect after the sequester cuts went into effect on March 1. Before the sequester, the bill allowed $157 billion in spending in 2013. 

“This is one more way for Republicans to undermine social safety net programs in our country, programs that provide a lifeline,” said Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.). “The American people provided me a lifeline when I was a single mother on food stamps. They were a bridge over troubled water, and that same lifeline is helping millions of families across the country get food on the table. 

"We’ve got to protect our nation’s vulnerable, but Republicans are choosing the Pentagon at the expense of the poor, hungry kids, and seniors.”

Republicans Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (Ky.) said he hoped Congress could come together on a budget agreement that would alleviate the pressure on discretionary spending by dealing with entitlement costs.

"This is the hand that sequestration has dealt us, and we have no choice but to try and make the best of what we have," he said. "It is my sincere hope that the House and Senate can come together on a sustainable budget compromise to replace sequestration and establish a responsible, single House and Senate top line discretionary budget number."

Democrats want the sequester replaced with tax increases and changes to entitlement programs like Medicare. The Senate and White House envision a top-line spending level of $1.058 trillion in 2014, $92 billion more than in the House.

Rogers said he is moving forward to try to pass all 12 annual bills in an orderly way, even though the August 2011 budget deal imposed caps that make "austere" cuts.

“These allocations will allow us to begin marking up Appropriations bills, with the goal of passing all 12 bills through a regular order process. This is clearly an austere budget year – sequestration has taken a huge toll on discretionary spending, and virtually all areas of the government will face cuts including critical national security programs," he said.

The GOP plan would cut the State Department and foreign aid budget by 16 percent under current sequester levels. The State, foreign operations bill would receive $34 billion, down from $40 billion post-sequester.

The Interior, Environment appropriations bill would also get a 16 percent cut below the sequester level, receiving $24 billion, compared to $28 billion currently.

By comparison, defense spending would get an increase above post-sequestration levels to $513 billion in base spending. War funding would drop slightly from $87 billion to $86 billion.

Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), the ranking member of the Interior, Environment subcommittee said he could not see getting his bill done at the levels outlined.

“This allocation isn't reality based, it can't be achieved without gutting entire parts of the Park Service, clean water funding, and land management programs. At times Congressional debate can be hyperbolic in describing program cuts, but these are just savage," Moran said.

"There's no sugar coating them. I don't see a path forward at these levels,” he said.

The Appropriations committee is trying to move the less controversial bills like homeland security and military construction. The homeland security bill features just $600 million in cuts from 2013 enacted levels. 

Committee Ranking Member Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) declined to comment on the leaked 302b allocations.

On Thursday, however, she warned of a “dark cloud looming over the committee” as a subcommittee met to approve the homeland security title. 

“We still have 10 bills to consider — at this rate there won’t be adequate funding left for education, medical research, transportation infrastructure, energy development, and other priorities to help grow our economy,” she said.