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House Republicans’ budget plan could take sting out of cuts

AFP-JIJI

House Republicans introduced a proposal Monday that will fund the government through the end of fiscal year 2013, albeit at a reduced level to account for harsh spending cuts already under way.

The measure, expected to be brought to the floor for a vote this week, does not cancel the $85 billion in arbitrary and automatic cuts known as sequestration that came into effect last Friday.

But it takes the sting out of some of the reductions, particularly in the military, by giving departments such as the Pentagon the ability to shift the funds in order to avoid deep cuts to critical operations.

“The legislation will avoid a government shutdown on March 27, prioritize (Department of Defense) and veterans’ programs, and allow the Pentagon some leeway to do its best with the funding it has,” House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers said in introducing the bill.

The Pentagon, which is set to endure half of the federal cuts, or roughly $42.7 billion, will see a $10 billion bump to its funding, allowing it to mitigate some of the sequester’s effects, Rogers said.

With the budget cuts made mandated by the sequester taken into account, he said total U.S. budget expenditures will be capped at $982 billion for the year, less than the $1.043 trillion agreed to under federal law.

But the bill will not erase many of the cuts to domestic programs that Democrats, in particular, have railed against — including border enforcement, air traffic control, student and childcare programs and medical research — and which are set to kick in this month.