Wonky

Obama To Propose Deep Cuts In Home Heating Program

A heating oil delivery in Newtown, PA, February 2010. i i

A heating oil delivery in Newtown, PA, February 2010. Mel Evans/ASSOCIATED PRESS hide caption

itoggle caption Mel Evans/ASSOCIATED PRESS
A heating oil delivery in Newtown, PA, February 2010.

A heating oil delivery in Newtown, PA, February 2010.

Mel Evans/ASSOCIATED PRESS

If the Obama White House officials wanted to focus attention on their willingness to take on Democratic Party sacred cows, they could've hardly done better than to reveal that their new budget will propose cutting billions of dollars from the program that helps struggling homeowners provide heat.

Marc Ambinder at National Journal reports that the administration intends for the proposed cuts to the Low Income Home Energy Program or LIHEAP is meant to signal the administration's seriousness about cutting federal spending.

President Obama's proposed 2012 budget will cut several billion dollars from the government's energy assistance fund for poor people, officials briefed on the subject told National Journal.

It's the biggest domestic spending cut disclosed so far, and one that will likely generate the most heat from the president's traditional political allies. That would satisfy the White House, which has a vested interest in convincing Americans that it is serious about budget discipline.

The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP, would see funding drop by about $3 billion from an authorized 2009 total of $5.1 billion. The proposed cut will not touch the program's emergency reserve fund, about $590 million, which can be used during particularly harsh cold snaps or extended heat spells, three officials told National Journal.

This news hasn't been out there long enough for much of a wave of liberal anger to build yet. But this is one of those issues where the White House may want to start battening down the hatches.

National Journal goes on to give a flavor of how Obama Administration officials will deal with the fallout:

How many people, if any, might actually lose the assistance is difficult to determine. Officials were quick to point out that LIHEAP spending has grown significantly over the past several years as the government tried to keep up with rising gas prices. In 2008, the government spent $2.8 billion on LIHEAP. In 2009, thanks to the Recovery Act, better known as the stimulus bill, the figure jumped to $8.1 billion. So the cut from that high level restores LIHEAP to something close to where it was before Obama took office. Other circumstances, such as the weather and fuel prices, could effect the distribution of benefits.

The White House's timing was filled with irony since advocates for increasing funding to help the poor heat their homes were making the rounds on Capitol Hill Wednesday.

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