What Was Cut In Last Week's Budget Agreement?

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House and Senate appropriators are busy working on the details of the $38 billion in 2011 cuts that President Obama and Congress shook hands on late Friday. There are some cuts from health and education, some from foreign aid. What do we know so far? What's not in the deal? NPR congressional correspondent David Welna talks to Melissa Block.


Some big decisions on money are getting made on Capitol Hill. On Friday night, it was a deal by handshake. Today, the nitty-gritty of the budget. And that's just for this fiscal year, which is already half gone.

House and Senate appropriators are busy working out the details of the $38 billion in cuts that President Obama and Congress have agreed on. The House plans to have an actual bill by late tonight with a vote Wednesday or Thursday.

And here to talk about what is in the bill is NPR congressional correspondent David Welna.

David, first of all, let's do the numbers here. President Obama and Democrats, and as well as Speaker Boehner, has said that this cut, $38 billion, is the biggest cut in the nation's history. Is that the case?

DAVID WELNA: Well, Melissa, it's certainly not the biggest annual drop in federal spending. Last year alone, spending decreased more than $60 billion from the previous year. And if you adjust for inflation, the spending cuts that came at the end of World War II were much bigger.

The spending reductions we're talking about here amount to barely 3 percent of the $1.6 trillion deficit that's expected this year and only about 1 percent of the overall budget. That said, it is unusual for Congress to cut spending, especially in the middle of the fiscal year.

BLOCK: OK, so $38 billion in cuts. Where are they coming from?

WELNA: Well, first, I should be clear that all we have now are some reports and some rough numbers because the actual spending bill is still being hammered out, and it won't be made public until very late this evening. The overall cuts add up to about $38 billion, but a series of short-term bills in the past weeks have already cut $12 billion.

So what we're talking about in this bill is really $26 billion in cuts. We know that most of those cuts are being carved out of what's called domestic discretionary spending, which is only about one-eighth of the overall budget.

The White House says the Departments of Labor, Education and Health and Human Services will have to give up about $13 billion. Another $8 billion worth of cuts come from the State Department and foreign aid. And the $2.5 billion dollars that were supposed to go to high-speed rail projects this year, that's being cut back to just $1 billion.

BLOCK: And what about what doesn't get cut in this bill?

WELNA: Well, the Pentagon, at the insistence of House Republicans, is actually getting about $5 billion more than it requested for this year. And the White House is touting having spared biomedical research at the National Institutes of Health from half a billion dollars in cuts, as well as having protected funding that the House had previously cut for some 60,000 children enrolled in Head Start, and money to implement provisions of the new financial services regulatory overhaul also got spared.

BLOCK: And, David, why don't you walk through some of the policy riders that Republicans were insisting on attaching to the budget bill?

WELNA: Right. When House Republicans passed the bill to keep the government funded till the rest of the fiscal year back in February, they added about 50 of these provisions called riders. Now, virtually, none of them have survived in the deal that was agreed on last Friday night.

Gone are the provisions that would have prevented the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating clean air and greenhouse gas emissions. Riders that would have eliminated both the big new health care law and the financial regulatory overhaul are also gone. So is an effort to cut off all federal funding for Planned Parenthood. And probably, of particular interest to people listening to this program, funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting was not eliminated.

Social conservatives did get a couple of things they sought. The deal reinstates a ban on Washington, D.C., using local tax revenues to pay for abortion services for low-income women. And it also imposes a voucher system on the nation's capital that benefits private and religious schools.

BLOCK: So when does this budget bill does come up for a vote? We said Wednesday or Thursday in the House. One big question is, will social conservatives and Republicans who wanted bigger spending cuts going to back it?

WELNA: Well, some of them are clearly unhappy with this compromise. But it's hard to gauge right now how many of them might end up actually voting against the bill. If enough of them do, House Republican leaders will end up having to rely on votes from Democrats, many of whom also oppose this deal to pass measure, because if it doesn't pass, we'll be back to talking again about a possible shutdown.

BLOCK: OK, David, thanks so much.

NPR's David Welna at the Capitol.



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