Republican Leaders in Push-and-Pull Budget Fight

Republican leaders are being forced to fight the budget battle on two fronts: against Democrats who want to cut less and Tea Partiers who want to cut more.

In the House, 87 freshmen Republicans got elected only after pledging to slash the budget by $100 billion dollars. So, it didn't go over big last week when Republican leader John Boehner proposed just $74 billion in cuts. CBS News correspondent Sharyl Attkisson reports that fiscal conservatives took him to the woodshed.

Under pressure, in what passes for lightning speed on Capitol Hill, Republican leadership carved bigger savings: Doubling cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency totaling $3 billion out of their $10.2 billion budget; adding $5.7 billion in new cuts to Pell Education Grants out of their $28.9 billion budget; and making deeper cuts in foreign aid, removing more than $11 billion from its $56.6 billion budget.

All of this was done to come up with the magical number of $100 billion.

Republicans are also taking their first crack at using the budget to undercut Health Care reform. They don't plan to give the IRS what it needs to enforce certain health care requirements.

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs declared the soaring debt the biggest threat to national security. Today, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the Republican cuts are just as bad.

"The truth is cuts of that level will be detrimental to america's national security," Clinton said.

In one twist on the theme, Defense Secretary Gates said everyone ought to agree on one thing: cutting out what he calls a redundant second engine for the F-35 jet.

"My hope is that...the new members who are interested in fiscal responsibility will see this as a way to save $3 billion for the taxpayers," Gates said.

It's not that easy. For five years, Presidents have removed the engine from the budget, but Congress stuffs it back in. Supporters claim it's a money-saver in the long run.

It doesn't hurt that the engine's makers lobby congress hard, and have spread a lot of jobs to congressional districts.

  • Sharyl Attkisson On Twitter»

    Sharyl Attkisson is a CBS News investigative correspondent based in Washington.

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