Spending Cuts: How Low Can You Go?

Obama wants to halve funding to poor people heating homes, Republicans want to gut the EPA

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Amid House Republican squabbling over the extent of federal budget cuts, President Obama has proposed cutting in half funds that help poor people heat their homes. Obama will likely face stiff opposition from Democrats, especially in the Northeast, National Journal's Marc Ambinder reports. But administration officials say the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program has turned into a subsidy for energy companies, and that slashing its budget by $2.5 billion won't hurt the old folks the program was designed to help.

Meanwhile, House Republicans, particularly those elected last fall as part of the Tea Party wave, want to see bigger cuts than what Obama will offer when he presents his budget on Monday. For example, they might start with pulling "$900 million in energy conservation and efficiency programs; $1.8 billion from the Environmental Protection Agency; and $75 million from legal-aid programs," The New York Times' Carl Hulse reports, scrapping "$5 billion in high-speed rail money" in an extra "swipe" at the Obama administration as well. House Speaker John Boehner is struggling to control his rebellious caucus, with its 87-strong freshman class that views the midterm elections as a mandate to dramatically reduce the deficit. The day after two dozen Republicans voted with Democrats to block reauthorization of the Patriot Act--a blow GOP leadership didn't see coming--conservative members used a party meeting to force their leaders to demand a $100 billion cut in domestic spending, more than double the $40 billion they had planned to call for, Hulse writes.

It'll be hard enough for Obama to get his heating subsidy cuts past New England Democrats as it is. Freshmen House Republicans will only be satisfied with steep cuts, but the more drastic the cuts, the more difficult it will be to reconcile their budget with the Democratic-controlled Senate and the White House. That could lead to a government shut-down, which didn't work out so well for House Republicans in the 1990s.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.