WASHINGTON (AP) - Moving to keep a campaign promise to slash the federal budget, Republicans controlling the House Tuesday went on record to return most domestic agencies to 2008 budget levels in place before President Barack Obama took office.
The 256-165 vote came on a symbolic measure but is an opening salvo in an upcoming battle over the budget that will pit the House GOP against Obama and the Democratic-controlled Senate.
It came just hours before Obama was to issue his own proposal: calling for a five-year freeze for most domestic agencies at current levels. That's more than $80 billion a year higher than the level of cuts Republicans want. Obama also reportedly will call for lawmakers to back a five-year plan put forth by Defense Secretary Robert Gates to save $78 billion in defense spending, an idea that has many Republicans anxious.
The immediate issue is how to wrap up the long overdue budget for the 2011 budget year that began in October.
"The days are over of unlimited spending, of no prioritization," said Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis. "And the days of getting spending under control are just beginning. This is a first step in a long process."
The vote comes on a nonbinding resolution that promises cuts approaching 20 percent of the budgets for agencies like the Education and Commerce departments when Congress wraps up the budget for the current fiscal year. The White House warns that such cuts would mean furloughs of tens of thousands of federal workers.
The actual GOP cuts would be made in a follow-up spending bill slated to advance next month and are sure to encounter strong resistance from the Democratic-controlled Senate and from Obama. Despite Tuesday's action, the cuts are a long way from becoming law; in fact, Democrats may have a tactical edge since Republicans are reluctant to spark a government shutdown if their demands aren't met.