STEVE INSKEEP, host:
We're also following budget questions in Washington, where House Republicans unveil a budget today.
Here's NPR's Andrea Seabrook.
ANDREA SEABROOK: Heres a small sample of the programs House Republicans make big cuts to in their funding bill out today. The FBI, the COPS program and other local police funding, rural development programs, farm(ph) services, the Environmental Protection Agency, job training for laid-off workers, the Food and Drug Administration, food safety and inspection services, farms services, NASA, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Park Service, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which funds NPR and public radio stations, the WIC program for women, infants and children, and it goes on. It amounts to tens of billions of dollars in cuts from the current spending levels, all of them from programs outside the Defense Department and Homeland Security, as well as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. All of those are left untouched.
Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor said this is just the beginning.
Representative ERIC CANTOR (Republican, Virginia): There's been a lot of talk on our side that members want to cut even further. And most of us welcome that talk and will be supporting yet even further cuts.
SEABROOK: Committee chairs and rank-and-file lawmakers will bring their own amendments to the floor next week, outlining deeper cuts in some departments. Republicans especially look forward to an amendment prohibiting any money in the budget from being spent on enacting the health reforms passed last year.
Why bring these as amendments, some ask, rather than add them to the main bill?
Representative JOHN BOEHNER (Republican, Ohio; Speaker of the House): It's not about my decision. It's not about anybody else's decision.
SEABROOK: Speaker John Boehner suggests that the cuts in the main bill are what Republicans could agree to. Anything else will be subject to the process of the House.
Rep. BOEHNER: Democrats and Republicans ought to have a chance to involve themselves in the process of legislating and let all members represent all Americans to develop how much cutting do the American people really want.
SEABROOK: Boehner and the rest of the Republican leadership are in a tight space here. Before November's election, they promised to cut $100 billion from the budget. Some say these cuts come close to that mark, but that's only if you count them as cuts to what President Obama proposed to spend last year; not cuts in what's actually being spent now. These cuts look even smaller if you prorate them to what's been spent already now that we're well into fiscal year.
There is a lot of fuzzy math going on around Capitol Hill, but few people beyond the unquestioning faithful believe these cuts get close to the Republicans goal.
Representative STENY HOYER (Democrat, Maryland): It's easy to say things on the campaign trail.
SEABROOK: House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer. He says part of Republicans' problem is that they aren't looking at Defense or Medicare and Medicaid.
Rep. HOYER: Pretending that you're going to get a handle on the deficit by focusing on about 14 percent of the budget is not reasonable.
SEABROOK: Another problem Republicans have is about their message, which is, according to Majority Leader Eric Cantor...
Rep. CANTOR: Republicans are focused on jobs and the economy like a laser.
SEABROOK: The problem is Republicans have spent most of their time so far working on bills that don't seem to have that laser focus: repealing health care, ending federal funding for abortion, changing the rules of the House.
Cantor and other Republican leaders are left having to explain over and over again how what they're doing really is related to jobs. Cantor's argument is that Republicans are trying to create a better business environment in America.
Rep. CANTOR: That's why cutting spending in Washington is directly related to economic growth. And that's why the emphasis here, and that's how it is very related to our focus on jobs and the economy.
SEABROOK: And then there's Republicans' biggest problem - if they really do want to make such drastic cuts: the Democrats - specifically the Democrats in charge of the Senate and the White House. Though they too seem to have some appetite for budget-cutting, their priorities are likely to be pretty different from their Republican colleagues in charge of the House.
Andrea Seabrook, NPR News, the Capitol.
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