WASHINGTON - More than half of the $38 billion in spending cuts that lawmakers agreed to last week in the 2011 budget compromise that averted a government shutdown would hit education, labor and health programs.
Funding for federal Pell grants, job training and a children’s health care initiative would face cuts, senior congressional aides said. A multitude of other programs – from highway and high-speed rail projects to rural development initiatives – also would experience significant reductions.
But some of the worstsounding trims are not quite what they seem, and officials said they would not necessarily result in lost jobs or service cutbacks. In several cases, what look like large reductions are actually accounting gimmicks.
The legislation includes $4.9 billion from the Justice Department’s Crime Victims Fund, for instance, but that money is in a reserve fund that wasn’t going to be spent this year. Crime victims would receive no less money than they did before the deal.
The full extent of the cuts wasn’t slated to be released until late Monday night, after congressional aides worked all weekend and all day Monday to shape a detailed spending plan based on the framework that President Barack Obama and congressional leaders agreed to Friday. Budget aides were tallying cuts line by line late into the evening, racing to prepare a bill to be introduced in the House as soon as Monday night, and aides cautioned that the precise numbers would remain fluid until then.
Of the $38 billion in overall reductions, about $20 billion would come from domestic discretionary programs, while $17.8 billion would be cut from mandatory programs. The latter cuts, known as “ChIMPS,” affect permanent programs protected by law. The money they lose this year could be put back in their budgets next year.
Though the pain would be felt across virtually the entire government – the deal includes a $1 billion across-theboard cut shared among all nondefense agencies – Republicans were able to focus the sharpest cuts on areas they’ve long targeted. The Education, Labor, and Health and Human Services departments, which represent about 28 percent of nondefense discretionary spending, face as much as $19.8 billion, or 52 percent, in reductions.
And although Democrats protected funding for some cherished programs, such as Head Start and the implementation of Obama’s healthcare law, they were not able to reduce military spending.
White House press secretary Jay Carney said Monday that the deal demonstrates “a commitment to making tough choices that are not the kinds of choices in an ideal world the president would want to make or that Democrats would want to make.”
Some of the cuts were not as difficult to make, including cuts to earmarks, unspent census money, leftover federal construction funding, and $2.5 billion from the most recent renewal of highway programs that can’t be spent because of restrictions set by other legislation.
About $10 billion of the cuts already have been enacted as the price for keeping the government open as negotiations progressed; lawmakers tipped their hand regarding another $10 billion or so when the House passed a spending bill last week that ran aground in the Senate.
For instance, the spending measure reaps $350 million by cutting a one-year program enacted in 2009 for dairy farmers then suffering from low milk prices. Another $650 million comes by not repeating a one-time infusion into highway programs passed that same year.