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House GOP wants $74 billion in budget cuts: Draconian or only a start?

House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan releases his spending limits for the 2011 House budget. Democrats say the cuts are unconscionable. Some Republicans say they're too small.

By Staff writer / February 3, 2011

House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R) of Wisconsin chairs a hearing on Jan. 26 on Capitol Hill in Washington. He released spending limits for the 2011 House budget Thursday.

Charles Dharapak/AP

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Washington

The much-anticipated conflict between Republicans and Democrats in the new Congress over how much to rein in the federal deficit began in earnest Thursday.

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House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R) of Wisconsin released his spending resolution, which sets a cap for the 2011 House budget. In all, it called for spending $74 billion less than President Obama has proposed and $35 billion less than was spent in 2010. Democrats denounced the figure as draconian, while some Republicans dubbed merely a start.

With his resolution, Congressman Ryan has given a sharper focus to the enormous gulf that separates the Republicans who control the House and the Democrats who control the Senate, as well as the difficulties ahead in bridging it.

Washington’s spending spree is over,” said Ryan in a statement. “After two consecutive trillion-dollar budget deficits and with unemployment remaining unbearably high, we must chart a new course.”

The caps are an attempt to meet a Republican campaign promise. Republicans vowed to cut $100 billion from the budget deficit in their first year. Since the 2011 fiscal year is now four months old – with the government funded by a continuing resolution until March 4 – Ryan said the cuts would fulfill that promise.

“Because five months of the fiscal year will have passed by March 4, 2011, Congress has an increasingly shorter window of time to achieve savings in this fiscal year,” Ryan said.

House Republicans have invested Ryan with unprecedented powers to unilaterally set discretionary-spending limits for the current fiscal year, saying such action was needed because the previous Congress failed to pass a budget. His proposed spending resolution caps 2011 discretionary spending at $1.005 trillion and includes an unexpected $16 billion in cuts for defense and security spending, along with $58 billion in other discretionary spending cuts.

The proposed caps aim to bring the government back to “pre-stimulus, pre-bailout levels.”

Republican: 'We're going to have to ... cut much more.'

But some conservatives say that’s not enough. The Republican Study Committee had called for the promised $100 billion in cuts, no matter when they start to take effect. RSC members say that they will offer amendments when the spending bills come to the floor to bring cuts this fiscal year to at least $100 billion.

“Anything short of our pledge to cut $100 billion from FY11 will be getting off on the wrong foot,” said Rep. Jeff Flake (R) of Arizona in a statement. “We can’t ignore the fact that our budget deficit is clocking in at $1.5 trillion and our debt at more than $14 trillion. We’re going to have to do much better and cut much more.”

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