The Republicans' plan to cut billions of dollars in federal spending could threaten the next season of the National Football League (NFL), a House Democrat charged Thursday.

Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) said steep cuts to the National Labor Relation Board (NLRB), as proposed by Republicans, could leave the league without an effective mediator if the players strike later this year, as they're threatening to do.

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"If Republicans got their way, it is likely the NLRB would have insufficient resources to properly mediate a dispute between the owners and players," Engel said Thursday in a statement. "That would result in stadiums across the country being dark, and thousands of people who work in them out of work come September."

To support his claim, the New York Democrat pointed to the Major League Baseball strike of 1994 and 1995, which was resolved only after U.S. District Judge Sonia Sotomayor (now a Supreme Court justice) backed the NLRB's injunction to end the standoff. 

"It was not collective bargaining that brought those players back on the field; it was the National Labor Relations Board," Engel said.

This year, NFL owners are threatening a lock out if the players union doesn't agree to a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA), including new limits on salaries and the addition of at least one regular season game. The current CBA expires in two weeks. 

As part of their plan to cut $61 billion in federal spending this fiscal year, House Republicans have proposed a $50 million cut to the NLRB. In contrast, the White House budget proposal for 2012 requests an increase of nearly $300 million for the board, an independent agency that manages relations between labor unions and employers. 

A separate amendment, sponsored by Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), would have defunded the NLRB entirely. It was shot down Thursday 250-176.

An earlier version of this story said the owners opted out of the last CBA in 2008. The post was updated Feb. 18 at 10:10 a.m.