Appropriations panel cardinals gear up to make budget cuts

GOP appropriators plan to cut federal agency budgets and steer administration policy by withholding funding from White House priorities, several cardinals on the spending committee said in separate interviews. 

The subcommittee chairmen, who are under orders from GOP leaders to craft a spending-cut package for floor action at the end of January, met with staff for the first time this week to start identifying cuts.

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“Everything will be on the table,” said Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.), who promises a top-to-bottom review as chairman of the Homeland Security subcommittee.

Rep. Tom Latham (R-Iowa), the new chairman of the subcommittee in charge of the Department of Transportation, plans to go after unallocated stimulus funding, something Republicans promised to target during the midterm campaign.

The independent auditor for the stimulus bill estimates about $12 billion in funds have not been spent, a large chunk of which was to be used for high-speed rail.

Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.), the new chairman of the Labor and Health and Human Services subcommittee, will push to de-fund the new healthcare law, assuming Republicans fail in their effort to repeal the law.

“I am going to fulfill my promise to the people of Montana that to the best of my ability we are going to de-fund ObamaCare, if we are not successful in repealing,” Rehberg said.

A key target will be the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, which Rehberg called a $10 billion slush fund. He also said he would look to starve any new programs that have been created as a result of the 2009 stimulus bill and claw back any unspent money that had been earmarked in the past.

Farm subsidies and the Commodity Futures Trade Commission (CFTC) will come under scrutiny from Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), the new chairman of the Agriculture subcommittee.

The Wall Street overhaul tasked overseeing the swaps market with the CFTC, which needs more money to carry out its new duties. Kingston suggests more funds will not be forthcoming. He also wants to reduce waste in farm subsidies, and suggests cuts to food stamps and other nutrition programs are a possibility.

“We should be tough on red-state policies and blue-state policies,” he said. “We have got to measure everything on the same stick. If there is an agricultural conservation program that is popular in red states, we have to look at it. If there is an inner-city school lunch program popular in blue states, we have to look at that, too.”

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Commerce, Justice and Science subcommittee Chairman Frank Wolf (R-Va.) promises oversight hearings targeting waste in counterterrorism efforts under the FBI and at the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Military Construction and Veterans’ Affairs subcommittee Chairman John Culberson (R-Texas) is now examining $462 million in spending cuts to construction projects and the Veterans Administration budget.

His office said that Culberson will also be looking to roll back a key issue for labor unions, the Davis–Bacon Act of 1931, which requires “prevailing” union wages on all federal construction projects, including military projects.