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GETTING DEFENSIVE: House Spending Plan Would Cut Education and Other Domestic Spending to Preserve Military Spending

“This is clearly an austere budget year—sequestration has taken a huge toll on discretionary spending,” Rogers

A spending plan being circulated by U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers (R-KY) would cut funding for the Labor, Health and Human Services (HHS), and Education appropriations bill by about $35 billion, or 22 percent less than the current level, in favor of protecting spending for the military and homeland security. Working within an overall spending limit of $967 billion, Rogers chose to allocate a total of $625 billion for the Defense, Military Construction-Veterans Affairs, and Homeland Security appropriations bills, a cut of $4 billion or less than 1 percent from the current level.

“This is clearly an austere budget year—sequestration has taken a huge toll on discretionary spending,” Rogers was quoted as saying byPolitico. “This is the hand that sequestration has dealt us, and we have no choice but to try and make the best of what we have. It is my sincere hope that the House and Senate can come together on a sustainable budget compromise to replace sequestration and establish a responsible, single House and Senate top-line discretionary budget number.”

U.S. Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), top Democrat on the Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee, took a different view of Rogers’s plan. “The disinvestment proposed for health, education, and labor programs reveals that the majority believes that poor people, kids, college students, sick people, the unemployed and the disabled should just fend for themselves,” DeLauro said. “The majority’s funding proposal would help create a permanent underclass in this country when we should be ensuring competitiveness in the global economy with robust education and training programs. … The majority’s funding proposal tells our most vulnerable children that they just aren’t important to us and we are content to let them struggle for the rest of their lives.”

Rogers’s allocations, informally known as “302(b)s,” do not set funding levels for individual programs, but they do set the amount of federal money each individual appropriations bill is allowed to contain. However, reducing the overall amount of money available in the Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill by such a large percentage means that many individual education programs are likely to take funding hits—exactly which ones will be determined later in the process. In the meantime, the House Appropriations Committee is expected to approve the 302(b) allocations on May 21.

Politico called Rogers’s plan a “prescription for more stalemate unless the House and Senate leadership begin to get more serious about budget negotiations with one another and President Barack Obama.”

President Obama, as well as Democrats in both the House and Senate, want to set a spending cap at $1.058 trillion—approximately $91 billion higher than Rogers’s plan—that assumes the sequester is eliminated. CQ Roll Call reported on May 17 that U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) plans to use a $1.058 trillion spending cap and that she is expected to begin circulating her 302(b) allocations to the committee during the week of May 20.

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