House appropriators plow forward with 2012 spending cuts

The House Appropriations Committee announced Wednesday detailed spending levels for 2012 and a schedule of committee markups meant to push nine of 12 appropriations bills through the House by August recess.

Consideration of the bills opens up a third front in the war between Democrats and Republicans over spending and sets the stage for another government shutdown drama in the fall.

The House floor will be dominated into September by the 12 appropriations bills, Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) said. In a statement, he said he still intends to have spending bills enacted by the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30.

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“I promised when I became Chairman that I would complete our appropriations work on time and on budget, and I will do everything I can to fulfill that promise,” Rogers said.

The committee detailed how it intends to cut spending according to the House-passed budget resolution, which sets a ceiling of $1.019 trillion in discretionary spending.

That is $102 billion less than President Obama’s request for $1.121 trillion in discretionary spending, and $30 billion less than the level of spending reached in the 2011 spending-cut compromise, which left discretionary spending at $1.049 trillion.

The committee is aiming to give the Pentagon a $17 billion increase in funding, so non-defense discretionary funding will have to be cut by about $46 billion.

Labor and Health and Human Services is to be hit the hardest with an $18 billion cut compared to current levels. State is to be cut by $8.6 billion and Transportation by $7.7 billion.

According to the schedule, the Homeland Security and military construction appropriations bills will be marked up by the full committee on May 23, with State and Foreign Operations being the last bill marked up on Aug. 3. 

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) at the beginning of this year told members that they have “three bites at the apple” this year to cut spending: the 2011 continuing resolution, the debt limit fight and the 2012 bills. 

The 2012 process allows leadership to have a do-over of the 2011 continuing resolution fight. 

"Anything that was cut in the CR and then restored will probably be cut again," said Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), the chairman of the Appropriations agriculture subcommittee. 

Rep. Norm Dicks (Wash.), the ranking Democrat on Appropriations, called the cuts “brutal.”

But other Republicans said the cuts were necessary given the size of the nation's deficit. 

“Appropriations levels will have to be scaled back on all fronts if we are to place our nation back on a sustainable fiscal path. The Republican budget proposal has set the table for both parties to come together and begin crafting real solutions,” freshmen Rep. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said in reaction.

-- Russell Berman contributed to this report.

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