House appropriators plan big cuts to labor, healthcare, foreign aid

The House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday announced its plans to hit jobs, healthcare and foreign aid programs the hardest as it seeks to meet the requirements of the House-passed budget authored by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).

The committee released proposed total spending figures for all 12 annual appropriations bills that together are to reach the top-line spending figure of $1.028 trillion in the Ryan plan. The Senate is crafting bills based on the August debt-ceiling deal’s $1.047 trillion, setting up a spending showdown in the fall.

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Compared to the Senate spending plan, the House will increase baseline military spending by $8 billion in 2013 to $519 billion. The House will then cut the Labor, Health and Human Services budget by $7 billion to $150 billion, and the State Department budget by $9 billion to $40 billion, compared to the Senate plan.

Other bills also receive reductions, with Financial Services getting $2 billion less — a sum likely to be taken from President Obama’s financial reform efforts — Agriculture getting $1 billion less and environmental programs getting cut by $1.6 billion. 

The spending figures now need to be approved by the full Appropriations Committee, something that is all but certain. Whether the cuts materialize for the 2013 fiscal year that begins Oct. 1 is another matter. Last year, controversial bills like the Labor title, which was filled with deep cuts and policy riders, did not make it out of committee and onto the floor before House leaders struck the August spending accord with the White House, which set the top-line number for 2012 as well as 2013.

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), the appropriator in charge of labor and health funding in the Senate lambasted the proposed House cuts.

"What did that U.S. commander say to the Germans when they surrounded him and asked for his surrender? 'Nuts!' That's my comment on that," Harkin said.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) said in a statement that he will work with the Senate to ensure funding is continued for important programs.

Rogers has taken pains to emphasize that the GOP is not looking to shut down the government this year in order to get its way on spending. He and his committee cardinals led a charge in the House to have the Ryan budget stick to the August debt deal in order to avoid an ugly spending battle before the election.

Appropriators generally want to see entitlements reformed so that the focus on cutting spending in their committee is lessened somewhat.