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updated 1/25/2011 3:16:55 PM ET 2011-01-25T20:16:55

Moving to keep a campaign promise to slash the federal budget, Republicans controlling the House Tuesday went on record to return most domestic agencies to 2008 budget levels in place before President Barack Obama took office.

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The 256-165 vote came on a symbolic measure but is an opening salvo in an upcoming battle over the budget that will pit the House GOP against Obama and the Democratic-controlled Senate.

It came just hours before Obama was to issue his own proposal: calling for a five-year freeze for most domestic agencies at current levels. That's more than $80 billion a year higher than the level of cuts Republicans want. Obama also reportedly will call for lawmakers to back a five-year plan put forth by Defense Secretary Robert Gates to save $78 billion in defense spending, an idea that has many Republicans anxious.

Story: Official: Obama to call for 5-year spending freeze

The immediate issue is how to wrap up the long overdue budget for the 2011 budget year that began in October. A battle over the 2012 battle will follow on a parallel track starting with Obama's budget submission next month.

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For Republicans, an important first step
"The days are over of unlimited spending, of no prioritization," said Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis. "And the days of getting spending under control are just beginning. This is a first step in a long process."

The vote comes on a nonbinding resolution that promises cuts approaching 20 percent of the budgets for agencies like the Education and Commerce departments when Congress wraps up the budget for the current fiscal year. The White House warns that such cuts would mean furloughs of tens of thousands of federal workers.

Vote: Do you plan on watching the State of the Union tonight?

The actual GOP cuts would be made in a follow-up spending bill slated to advance next month and are sure to encounter strong resistance from the Democratic-controlled Senate and from Obama.

Despite Tuesday's action, the cuts are a long way from becoming law; in fact, Democrats may have a tactical edge since Republicans are reluctant to spark a government shutdown if their demands aren't met.

Republicans say Tuesday's measure is the first step in keeping a campaign promise to cut $100 billion from Obama's budget for the current year. The actual savings would be less — about $84 billion — since Obama's budget increases were never passed. And because the budget year has been under way since Oct. 1, GOP leaders say they can't deliver the cuts by the Sept. 30 end of the fiscal year; instead, they say they will spread them over a full calendar year.

Such cuts would shake most Cabinet agencies — the Pentagon, and the departments of Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security would be largely spared — and may be unpopular with the public, which registers strong support for the idea of spending cuts in general but often balks when seeing specifics like cuts to school aid, Amtrak subsidies, road funding and public broadcasting.

"These cuts will go deep and wide, and will hit virtually every agency and every Congressional district in this country, including my own," said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky. "Every dollar that we cut will have a constituency, an industry, an association, and individual citizens who will disagree with us."

Some conservatives look for more cuts
That is not sufficient for many House conservatives. Almost 100 of them Monday wrote House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, urging him to cut the full amount over the final seven months of fiscal 2011 — a prospect the White House warns would require slashing agency budgets by almost one-third, leading to the massive furloughs and the gutting of critical programs and agencies.

Boehner said Tuesday that conservatives would be allowed to offer amendments to cut spending further and that the "House will work its will."

Even newly elected conservatives may recoil when they see the specific cuts that would be required to fulfill the promise: smaller Pell Grants, less aid to hometown school districts and cuts to NASA that could cost jobs in GOP-leaning Texas and Alabama.

Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., said the GOP resolution puts "Pell Grants, medical research, food safety, (the) FBI ... and other vital programs on the chopping block."

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Democrats say that while they agree with the need to wrestle the budget under control, it's unwise to slash the budget immediately since the economic recovery is just taking hold. At the same time, they're ready to defend programs aimed at helping the poor, such as subsidized housing, food aid for low-income pregnant women and heating subsidies.

Republicans aren't saying that every account will absorb a cut back to 2008 levels. The most popular programs might be cut less; others slashed even more.

Still, a return to 2008 levels would mean Pell Grants for college students from low-income families could be cut by well more than $1,000 from the current $5,550 maximum. A cutback in housing subsidies would mean that hundreds of thousands of people won't see their Section 8 vouchers renewed. And a $1 billion, 24 percent cut to the historically underfunded Indian Health Service would reduce critically needed health care in some of the most impoverished places in the country.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: State of the Union: It's all about the economy

  1. Transcript of: State of the Union: It's all about the economy

    BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: Tomorrow night we'll be in Washington for the annual ritual of the State of the Union address . This year is different -- of course, they all are, concerning the president and Congress , even this year the seating chart. Our chief White House correspondent, political director Chuck Todd at the White House tonight with a bit of a preview. Chuck , good evening.

    CHUCK TODD reporting: Good evening, Brian . Well, of course, you mentioned the seating chart. Democrats and Republicans will be sitting together. It won't be obvious when one side stands up and one side doesn't on what the president says. As for what the president is going to say, he's still noodling with his speech. It already times at possibly more than an hour. About two-thirds of it is going to be on the domestic side, focused on jobs and figuring out how to deal with phase two of this economic recovery. The other third will be on national security. Now, details of this speech are still being kept close to the vest. They've leaked out a few details talking about -- in generalities, new investments, which of course Republicans have already hit the White House saying, 'Hey, that's new spending.' The White House today pushing back on that, 'No, no, no, no.' They want to move -- no new money are they asking for, they just want to redirect some funds. But some new details, I'm told, we may not know, Brian , until the president actually gives his speech. So they're trying not to leak it out the way they have in years past.

    WILLIAMS: All right, Chuck Todd at the White House , where we'll see you tomorrow night, Chuck . Thanks. And a reminder, live

Explainer: State of the union: by the numbers

  • After President Barack Obama's delivery of the annual State of the Union address to Congress, here is a look at some of the facts and figures that shape American life and how they have changed in the past decade (based on the latest available data, compiled from multiple sources).

  • Economy and Business

    Unemployed workers, January 2000: 4.0%
    Unemployed workers, January 2011: 9.4%

    Dow Industrial Average, Jan. 25, 2000:11,029
    Dow Industrial Average, Jan. 20, 2011:11,822

    U.S. federal debt, September 2000:$5,674,178,209,886
    U.S. federal debt, September 2010:$13,561,623,030,891

    Median new home price, January 2000: $163,500
    Median new home price, November 2010: $213,000

    Household income (top 5%), 2000:$252,400
    Household income (top 5%), 2009:$295,388

    Household income (bottom 5%), 2000:$10,157
    Household income (bottom 5%), 2009:$11,552

    Total U.S. population, 2000: 281,421,906
    Total U.S. population, 2010:308,745,538

    Number of U.S. millionaires, 2000:6.3 million
    Number of U.S. millionaires, 2010:7.8 million

    Price of admission to Forbes 400 list, 2000:$725 million
    Price of admission to Forbes 400 list, 2010:$1 billion

  • Politics

    Congressional approval, December 2000:55% approve; 30% disapprove     
    Congressional approval, September 2010:
    20% approve, 73% disapprove

    Confidence in national news media, December 2000:40% have little or no confidence
    Confidence in national news media, January 2011:42% have little or no confidence

    Confidence in the federal government, December 2000:19% have little or no confidence
    Confidence in the federal government, January 2010:
    35% have little or no confidence

    Hispanic/Latino electorate in 2000 election:7%
    Hispanic/Latino electorate in 2008 election:9%

    Women serving in Congress, 2000: 67
    Women serving in Congress, 2011: 93

    African-American members in U.S. Senate, 2000:0
    African-American members in U.S. Senate, 2011:0

  • Health

    Life expectancy at birth, 2000:76.8 years
    Life expectancy at birth, 2010:78.3 years, projected

    Number of uninsured Americans, 2000: 38.4 million
    Number of uninsured Americans, 2010:
    50.7 million

    Cancer deaths, all causes, 2000:553,091
    Cancer deaths, all causes, 2010:
    569,490

  • Travel

    Average price of a gallon of gas, 2000:$1.51/gallon
    Average price of a gallon of gas, 2011:
    $3.08/gallon

    Average airfare, 2000:$339
    Average airfare, 2011: $335 (through second quarter of 2010)

    First-bag fee, 2000: None
    First-bag fee, 2010:$20-25 (on most major U.S. carriers)

    Average hotel, 2000:$85.89/night
    Average hotel, 2011:$97.89/night (through September 2010)

    One-day ticket to Walt Disney World, 2000:$46
    One-day ticket to Walt Disney World, 2011:$82

  • Tech and Science

    Google searches per day, 2000: 30 million
    Google searches per day, 2011:
    Over 1 billion

    Wireless phone subscribers in U.S., 2000:97 million (34% of population)
    Wireless phone subscribers in U.S., 2011:293 million (93% of population)

    Facebook users, worldwide, 2000: 0
    Facebook users, worldwide, 2011:600 million

    Federal spending on research and development, 2000:$99 billion (actual spending)
    Federal spending on research and development, 2011:$148 billion (proposed)

    NASA science missions in operation, 2000: 38
    NASA science missions in operation, 2011:67

  • Education

    Public schools that require student uniforms, 1999-2000:12%
    Public schools that require student uniforms, 2007-2008:18%

    Public schools reporting the use of one or more security cameras, 1999-2000:19%
    Public schools reporting the use of one or more security cameras, 2007-2008:55%

    Nationwide graduation rates at public high schools, 2000-2001:71.7%
    Nationwide graduation rates at public high schools, 2007-2008:74.9%

    Average salary for public high school teachers, 1999-2000:$42,546
    Average salary for public high school teachers, 2008-2009:$53,724

    Minorities enrolled in 4-year institutions, 2000:1.5 million
    Minorities enrolled in 4-year institutions, 2007:1.8 million

    Average college tuition for 4-year private institutions, 1999-2000:$20,706
    Average college tuition for 4-year private institutions, 2009-2010:$26,273

    Science and math literacy (U.S. ranking on OECD PISA test given to 15-year-olds), 2000:14th in science, 19th in math
    Science and math literacy (U.S. ranking on OECD PISA test given to 15-year-olds), 2009:23rd in science, 31st in math

  • Sports

    Highest paid athletes (includes salaries, bonuses, prize money, endorsements and appearance fees), 2000:Michael Schumacher, $59 million
    Highest paid athletes (includes salaries, bonuses, prize money, endorsements and appearance fees), 2010:Tiger Woods, $105 million

    Cost of a Super Bowl ad, 2000:$2.1 million
    Cost of a Super Bowl ad, 2011:$3 million

    Rose Bowl payout (amount paid to each participating team), 2000:$12 million
    Rose Bowl payout (amount paid to each participating team), 2011:$21.2 million

    Average cost of an NFL ticket, 2000:$45.63
    Average cost of an NFL ticket, 2011:$76.47

  • Entertainment and Lifestyle

    Average movie ticket price, 2001: $5.66
    Average movie ticket price, 2011: $7.95

    Golden Globe winner for best picture, 2001:"A Beautiful Mind"
    Golden Globe winner for best picture, 2011:"The Social Network"

    Number of wide-release 3-D movies, 2001: 1
    Number of wide-released 3-D movies, 2011:30+

    Oprah Winfrey net worth, 2001:$800 million
    Oprah Winfrey net worth, 2011:$2.7 billion

    Number of children in the Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar family, 2001: 13
    Number of children in the Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar family, 2011: 19

    Most-watched TV show, 2001-2002:"Friends," 24.46 million average
    Most-watched TV show, 2010:"American Idol," 29.8 million average

    Highest-paid TV actor, 2001:Kelsey Grammer, $1.6 million per episode
    Highest-paid TV actor, 2011:Charlie Sheen, $1.25 million per episode

    Number of reality shows in Nielsen top 10, 2001: 2
    Number of reality shows in Nielsen top 10, 2010: 5

    Top-earning concert act, 2001:U2, estimated ticket sales $109.7 million
    Top-earning concert act, 2010:Bon Jovi, estimated ticket sales $201.1 million

    Average concert ticket price, 2001:$43.86
    Average concert ticket price, 2010:$55

    Popularity rank of the names "Malia" and "Sasha," 2000:498, 476
    Popularity rank of the names "Malia" and "Sasha," 2009:192, 261

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