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GOP Proposes Additional $26 Billion in Cuts for 2011

deficit, debt
Vince Bucci

After an emergency meeting on Thursday night, House Republicans have seemingly coalesced behind a plan to immediately cut an additional $26 billion from the federal budget - pledging a return to the ambitious budget figure outlined in the Republican "Pledge to America," and giving strength to a chorus of conservative voices in the GOP.

Republicans say the new cuts would reduce federal spending by $100 billion for the remainder of the current fiscal year - allowing the party to fulfill a promise made in September 2010's "Pledge to America," which promised to roll back non-discretionary spending to pre-TARP, pre-stimulus levels of 2008.

"Our intent is to make deep but manageable cuts in nearly every area of government, leaving no stone unturned and allowing no agency or program to be held sacred," said Rep. Harold Rogers, the Kentucky Republican who leads the House Appropriations Committee, in a statement.

Republican leaders had previously backtracked on that promise when, at the end of the 2010 session, Congress passed a stopgap measure to delay a vote on the 2011 fiscal budget until March. Because the fiscal year started in October, Republicans revised their proposed cuts to reflect a seven-month period rather than a full year.

But a number of House Republicans - particularly Tea Party members and conservative freshmen - protested the amended figure and demanded a return to the original promise.

"The freshmen, who obviously are just in their first month of serving, want to make sure that this is a Congress that can earn the respect of the people that sent them here," House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said on Thursday. "And first thing's first and that is to earn the trust. And that means to deliver on your promises and that's what we do by this bill."

"The level of cuts here have not taken place in Congress since World War II," he said. "That's how big these cuts are, OK? So we have now produced a working document, again a bill that will be brought to the floor that will make history again. Since World War II, this place has not seen a cut like this. These are not easy cuts. But we understand our country is on a path to fiscal ruin and if we want to get the economy going, we want to get people back to work, this is one of the first steps we need to take."

According to the AP, Rogers warned on Wednesday that the depth of such reductions could lead to layoffs in the FBI, harm to national air traffic control, and deductions in funding for health research, special education, and grants for low-income college students.

Democrats have been harsh in their criticism of the proposal - which Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid likened to using amputation for weight loss purposes.

"In many cases, these proposals may mean taking workers off the assembly line or taking teachers out of the classroom or police off our streets," Reid said, of the proposal.

"After all, you can lose a lot of weight by cutting off your arms and legs," he added. "But no doctor would recommend it."

Some Republicans think that even the GOP's amended plan fails to go far enough: According to the New York Times, Iowa Congressman Steve King said he would not vote for the legislation unless it completely defunded health care reform.

"If we don't fight on this ground, there will not be ground this good to fight on again," he said.

Regardless, the legislation likely has a long way to go before passage: Senate Democrats are almost certain to reject such extensive cuts in that chamber - and some argue that the inevitable Congressional deadlock could lead to a 1994-reminiscent government shutdown.