Budget deal details: Cuts that aren't quite cuts

CBS/AP

Details of the $38 billion worth of spending cuts factoring in last Friday's 11th-hour budget that averted a government shutdown have been released, but the cuts, while historic, were significantly eased by pruning money left over from previous years, using accounting sleight of hand and going after programs President Barack Obama had targeted anyway.

CBS News Congressional correspondent Nancy Cordes reports that legislation that reflects the deal made between Republicans and Democrats was posted online at 1:30 this morning.

Members of Congress are going to be getting their first real look of the deal Tuesday, and Republicans in particular are sure to express frustration that so many of the cuts in the deal aren't exactly cuts at all.

A group of New York Democrats has also announced they would vote against the deal (which is likely to pass) because of the cuts to social programs.

Budget cuts target Democratic priorities

Among the cuts:

  • $700 million from clean and safe drinking water programs;
  • $390 million from heating subsidies;
  • $276 million from pandemic flu prevention programs; and
  • $1.5 billion from the president's new $8 billion initiative to spur high-speed rail development.

Many of the cuts appear to have been cuts in name only, because they came from programs that had unspent funds.

For example, $1.7 billion left over from the 2010 census; $3.5 billion in unused children's health insurance funds; $2.2 billion in subsidies for health insurance co-ops (that's something the president's new health care law is going to fund anyway); and $2.5 billion from highway programs that can't be spent because of restrictions set by other legislation.

About $10 billion of the cuts comes from targeting appropriations accounts previously used by lawmakers for so-called earmarks - pet projects like highways, water projects, community development grants and new equipment for police and fire departments. Republicans had already engineered a ban on earmarks when taking back the House this year.

Republicans also claimed $5 billion in savings by capping payments from a fund awarding compensation to crime victims. Under an arcane bookkeeping rule -- used for years by appropriators -- placing a cap on spending from the Justice Department crime victims fund allows lawmakers to claim the entire contents of the fund as "budget savings." The savings are awarded year after year.

Democrats were able to protect some programs that had been targeted by House Republicans earlier this year, like the Head Start early learning program, while maintaining the maximum Pell grant of $5,550 and funding for President Obama's "Race to the Top" initiative that provides grants to better-performing schools.

Republicans also gave up politically treacherous cuts to the Agriculture Department's food inspection program.

The president and Democrats also repelled Republican moves to cut $1 billion in grants for community health centers and $500 million from biomedical research at the National Institutes of Health, while blocking them from "zeroing out" the AmeriCorps national service program and subsidies for public broadcasting and National Public Radio.

Conservatives are upset that most conservative policy "riders" added by Republicans were dropped from the legislation in the course of the talks.

The White House rejected GOP attempts to block the Environmental Protection Agency's ability to issue global warming rules and other reversals of environmental regulations. Mr. Obama also forced Republicans to drop an effort to cut off Planned Parenthood from federal funding, as well as GOP moves to stop implementation of the president's overhauls of health care and Wall Street regulation.

The administration also thwarted a GOP attempt to block new rules governing the Internet, as well as a National Rifle Association-backed attempt to neuter a little-noticed initiative aimed at catching people running guns to Mexican drug lords by having regulators gather information on batch purchases of rifles and shotguns.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, did win funding for a personal initiative to provide federally funded vouchers for District of Columbia students to attend private schools. And anti-abortion lawmakers succeeded in winning a provision to prohibit the District of Columbia, which gets federal funds, from paying for abortions.

Last night, 41 D.C. residents (including the mayor and six city council members) were arrested on Capitol Hill protesting the provisions.

D.C. mayor released after protest arrest

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