President Signs Off on Budget Cuts

WASHINGTON (AP) - After a line-by-line scrub of the federal
budget, President Barack Obama has signed off on a roster of 121
budget cuts totaling $17 billion - or about one-half of 1 percent
of the $3.4 trillion budget Congress has approved for next year.

Budget Director Peter Orszag briefed Democratic lawmakers on a
partial roster of the cuts Wednesday before a public release on
Thursday. Obama also is fleshing out the details of the $1.3
trillion portion of the budget that he requested Congress pass
through appropriations bills for the budget year beginning Oct. 1.

Some of the cuts are sure to rankle lawmakers, such as the
elimination of the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program, which
gives money to states to help defray the cost of incarcerating
illegal immigrants who commit crimes. President George W. Bush
tried and failed to kill the $400 million program several times.

A senior White House official said the cuts would total $17
billion, with about half the savings coming from the Pentagon
budget, and the other half from domestic programs. Most of the
savings, $11.5 billion, would come from appropriated programs.

The official spoke only on condition of anonymity to discuss the
proposal before it's made public Thursday.

Obama has said repeatedly his administration will go through the
budget "line by line" to eliminate waste. But the resulting
savings are relatively minor compared with the government's fiscal
woes, especially a deficit that's likely to exceed $1.5 trillion
this year.

Republicans weren't impressed with the budget cuts.

"While we appreciate the newfound attention to saving taxpayer
dollars from this administration, we respectfully suggested that we
should do far more," House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio,
said.

Many of the cuts mirror those proposed previously by Bush but
largely rejected by Congresses controlled by both Republicans and
Democrats.

"Yes, some of these things have been tried before, but it adds
a lot of weight when the president specifically targets
something," Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D.,
said.

Most of the defense cuts - including ending production of the
F-22 fighter and killing a much-maligned replacement helicopter
fleet for the president - have been announced previously by Defense
Secretary Robert Gates.

Obama also is likely to submit a $130 billion request for
military and diplomatic operations in Iraq and Afghanistan next
year, which may not be adequate considering the increase in the
tempo of operations in Afghanistan.

Congress is working on Obama's $84.9 billion request for war
funding for the remainder of 2009, with the House Appropriations
Committee set to vote Thursday on a $94.2 billion bill that adds
money for foreign aid and Pentagon procurement. Such advanced
funding effectively helps squeeze more money into next year's
accounts even as Obama orders cuts.

Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Calif., said Obama's recommendations
won't be "universally embraced" but said Congress also would
weigh in with savings recommendations of its own to cut spending.

"This is something that's sorely needed," Cardoza said.

In fact, Democrats already have pared about $10 billion from
Obama's appropriations requests in passing the $3.4 trillion
congressional budget plan last month.

And lawmakers are unlikely to go along with a call to raise
-after 2010 - per-ticket fees on airline travel to fund airport
security programs.

In a preview, administration officials cited five program cuts
to be outlined in the budget document Thursday:

- Federal support for an older aircraft navigation system,
LORAN-C, which stands for long-range radio navigation, would be
eliminated for a savings of $35 million a year. LORAN-C has largely
been replaced by satellite-based navigation systems.

- Payments to states for cleaning up abandoned mines - mines
that have already been cleaned up - would be eliminated, at a
savings of $142 million.

- Ending the Education Department's attache in Paris, at a
savings of $632,000 a year.

- Eliminating the Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation,
saving $1 million a year. The officials said that now, only about
20 percent of the appropriation is actually paid out in fellowships
and awards.

- Federal support of the Even Start program would be killed, at
a savings of $66 million for 2010. The administration contends
that, while the intention of the early-childhood education program
is worthy, other programs covering the same ground, including Early
Head Start and Head Start, do a better job.

In other budget areas, the administration would keep paying for
private-school vouchers for about 1,700 children receiving them in
Washington, D.C., an administration official said. Obama is
proposing $12.2 million for the 2010-11 school year and would like
to continue the funding until the kids in the program graduate. He
would not allow new students into the program.

The detailed budget also calls for an 8 percent increase over
current funding for border enforcement and security funding, the
administration says.

And Obama is proposing that the government provide $1.25 billion
to settle discrimination claims by black farmers against the
Agriculture Department.


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