Pentagon, homeland security spared in cuts

2012-05-09 13:47
Washington - Republicans controlling the House of Representatives are sparing the Pentagon, military veterans and most homeland security programmes from the budget knife as action begins on a set of spending bills setting the day-to-day budgets for federal agencies.

Foreign aid programmes would absorb a 5% cut in legislation released on Tuesday, while the FBI would receive a 2% budget hike in a separate measure.

At issue is much of the nuts-and-bolts work of Congress, going line by line through the agency budgets funded each year through 12 appropriations bills.

Democrats will support several of the early bills, but the Obama administration has already promised to veto the measures because Republicans are cutting domestic programmes below levels agreed to in last summer's budget pact.

But House Appropriations Committee Chairperson Harold Rogers, a Republican, is frontloading the process with legislation backed by Democrats, including measures funding the departments of Veterans Affairs, Homeland Security and Defence.

Democrats spoke glowingly of a $72bn veterans and military construction measure approved by an Appropriations subpanel by voice vote and also backed a $600bn-plus measure funding the Pentagon and military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

9% cut in foreign aid

But they criticised a $48bn measure funding foreign aid and the State Department. Democratic Representative Norm Dicks said the measure "underfunds our nation's diplomatic efforts" and is packed with controversial policy prescriptions, including a move to stop US contributions to United Nations population control efforts.

Dicks says that when overseas anti-terror efforts are added to the tally, the cuts to foreign aid total 9%.

Dicks, the top Democrat on the Appropriations panel, is a key figure because it's commonly assumed that Democratic votes will be needed to pass the measures. Some Republican conservatives simply refuse to vote for any spending measure.

For instance, conservatives are likely to protest more than $5bn in disaster aid added in accordance with last summer's budget pact but not accounted for in the Republican budget plan that passed in March, which is likely to cost the homeland security measure support when it comes to the floor.

Veterans programmes would receive a 4% budget boost provided by cuts to construction efforts on military bases.

The Pentagon measure would boost military spending by $3bn above Obama's request for core defence programmes and match his $89bn request for overseas military operations, which reflects a $27bn cut from current levels. It also would fund a 1.7% pay hike for the military.

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