EPA, NASCAR, Afghanistan & health care: Where the House did -- and didn't -- cut spending today

U.S. Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) returns to his office from the House chamber after votes February 18, 2011 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The House continued to debate on the Continuing Resolution (H.R. 1), that contains Republican-proposed deep cuts in the budget.
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John Boehner
U.S. Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) returns to his office from the House chamber after votes February 18, 2011 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.
Alex Wong/Getty Images

The House of Representatives today slogged through numerous amendments to a bill that would keep the government funded through the rest of the fiscal year.

Republicans are using the bill to prove they are serious about cutting government spending -- even though it's almost certain the bill will have to change significantly before President Obama will sign it into law. Nevertheless, the House today debated funding for everything from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Afghanistan war to funding for family planning and a NASCAR sponsorship. While the spending bill will have to be altered in the Senate, today's vote sheds some light on the priorities of the new, GOP-led House.

Much of Friday's debate focused on amendments to the bill to strip funding for President Obama's new health care reform laws. The House passed four separate amendments to do so, and one Republican congressman, Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.), called the health care reform package "the worst bill that's ever been passed in the history of the Congress."

The House also voted to ban all federal funding for Planned Parenthood and to eliminate a program known as Title X, which provides aid for family planning and reproductive health.

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Additionally, by a vote of 249 to 177, the GOP-led House voted to block the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases.

One amendment the House will vote on later this evening (and likely reject): A proposal from Democratic Rep. Ed Markey of Massachusetts to deny new leases for offshore gas and oil drilling to companies that already have leases with unlimited royalty waivers.

Markey said on the House floor today that unless his amendment is adopted, energy companies will continue to hold leases "to let them drill on public land without paying tax payers a single dime."

"They don't need a $53 billion windfall, courtesy of the American taxpayer," he said.

"Will we stand with big oil or big bird?" Markey asked, referring to the GOP's interest in cutting funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which partially funds PBS and NPR.

"Executives from BP won't be shivering in the cold any time soon, but our nation's poorest residents... will be," Markey continued. The House this week rejected an amendment from Republican Rep. Charlie Bass of New Hampshire to restore $50 million to the budget bill for heating subsidies for low-income people. (President Obama's proposed 2012 budget also cuts funding for low-income heating assistance.)

Before debate began over Markey's proposal today, the House rejected an amendment from Democratic Rep. Jerry Nadler to limit public financing of the war in Afghanistan for the rest of the fiscal year to just $10 billion.

That doesn't mean the House has been unwilling to consider defense cuts -- earlier in the week, they voted to scrap funding for a second F-35 jet engine the Defense Department has called a waste of money, saving $450 million this year and up to $3 billion over several years.

While PBS and NPR could be on the chopping block, Republicans today spared funding related to NASCAR. The House rejected an amendment from Democratic Rep. Betty McCollum of Minnesota that would have barred the Defense Department from spending millions of dollars a year on NASCAR car sponsorships.

A few more of this week's votes: The House passed an amendment to reduce funding for the National Endowment to the Arts back to 2006 levels, saving about $21 million. The House also voted to restore $557 million to the budget to fund special education grants. They rejected an amendment to reduce funding for Amtrak by $447 million.

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