Responding to a challenge from President Barack Obama, House GOP leaders are offering up a roster of more than $23 billion in spending cuts over the next five years.
The proposed cuts, which were to be sent to the White House on Thursday, bear little resemblance to the dramatic proposals Republicans unfurled when they took over Congress 14 years ago.
Rather than proposing, for example, the elimination of the Education Department, as they have in the past, Republicans are suggesting killing a program that pays for building sidewalks, bike paths and crossing guards as part of the Safe Routes to Schools program. That would save $183 million a year.
The Associated Press was provided an advance look at the plan, which flows from a White House tiff between Obama and House GOP Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia.
In April, Cantor praised Obama for instructing Cabinet secretaries to produce $100 million worth of commonsense cuts this year. Obama's cuts were met with a lot of derision for being merely a drop in the bucket as the government faces extraordinarily large deficits, and Cantor said the president could do a lot better. Obama told him to come up with suggestions.
The result is a list of 37 specific program cuts that would save taxpayers more than $23 billion over the next five years and more than $5 billion in the first year alone.
Some of the GOP cuts haven't been estimated by federal scorekeepers and the party has padded its own estimate by assuming $317 billion over the next five years from limiting non-defense agency budgets to inflation-adjusted levels that Obama is sure to reject.
Other proposals include:
- $72 million a year in cuts to the Agriculture Department's Market Access Program that promotes the sale of brand name products overseas.
- Saving $833 million a year by eliminating federally funded transportation "enhancements" like landscaping, preservation of historic facilities, and pedestrian and bike facilities.
- Eliminating retirement benefits for federal workers who retire before age 62 to save perhaps $267 million a year.
"What we tried to do was come up with things that really are doable," Cantor said. "It's not like we're going to propose the abolition of the Department of Education."
Still, there are plenty of political proposals, including a move to abolish the $4 million budget of a House panel on global warming and to block federal employees who are union activists from being granted time to devote all of their work time to union activities.