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US Democrats, Republicans locked in debate over budget cuts

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President Obama

In power scarcely a day, House Republicans bluntly told the White House on Thursday its request to raise the nation’s $14.3 trillion debt limit will require federal spending cuts to win their approval, laying down an early marker in a new era of divided government.

Speaker John Boehner made the challenge as the new GOP majority voted to cut funding for House members’ own offices and committee operations by $35 million. Rank and file Republicans described that vote as a mere down payment on a much more ambitious assault on record federal deficits.

“It’s not massive,” first-term Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., said of Thursday’s cut. “But it is monumental.”

At a news conference, Boehner, R-Ohio, also said emphatically he was standing by a pre-election pledge to cut government spending by at least $100 billion this year. “No ifs, ands or buts about it,” he said, despite comments from other Republicans the total might be overly ambitious.

The Republicans who took control of the House on Wednesday include dozens of newcomers elected last fall with the support of tea party activists eager for a smaller, less intrusive government. And Thursday’s events suggested a struggle could be mere weeks away as conservative lawmakers use the Treasury’s need for more borrowing authority to try and extract concessions from President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats.

GOP pushes for exemptions

Meanwhile, Democrats accused House Republicans of exempting more than $1 trillion in proposed tax cuts and higher spending over the next 10 years from a promise to cut federal deficits.

The exemptions include a bill to repeal last year’s health care legislation as well as GOP-backed proposals extending a series of tax cuts for upper income filers that are due to expire in two years, according to a tally several Senate Democrats unveiled at a news conference Thursday.

Sens. Chuck Schumer of New York, Dick Durbin of Illinois and Debbie Stabenow of Lansing assailed House Republicans for scrapping a Democratic rule aimed at making it more difficult to cut taxes or increase spending with borrowed money.

“If Republicans want to give millionaires a tax break, the new rules say there’s no need to cut spending to pay for it,” Schumer said.

Schumer and his colleagues voted to extend tax cuts for upper-bracket taxpayers last month as part of a bipartisan tax and spending bill — a measure that added almost $1 trillion to the deficit despite the so-called pay-as-you-go budget rule that the Democrats were criticizing House Republicans for scrapping.

The effort to repeal President Obama’s health care bill is the first major measure expected to come before the House. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the year-old legislation will reduce deficits by $143 billion over the next decade, suggesting its repeal would raise red ink by the same amount.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., disputed the CBO estimate this week, and Boehner told a news conference the projection was based on faulty assumptions.

“I don’t think anyone in this town believes” that repealing the bill will increase deficits, he said.

In other matters, two House GOP members, including the House Republican campaign chairman, voted a half-dozen times in Wednesday’s opening session before being sworn in.

Reps. Pete Sessions of Texas, the campaign chief, and Mike Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania were at a reception Wednesday in the Capitol Visitor Center when other members took the oath.

They were officially sworn in Thursday.

Source: The Detroit News

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