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House GOP Begins Slashing Budget with $17 Billion Cut

By Richard A. Serrano and Edwin Chen
Los Angeles Times

House Republicans began their promised assault on the federal budget in earnest yesterday by approving $17.1 billion in cuts to current domestic spending and recommending another $100 billion they want to slash over the next five years.

The House voted 227-200, largely along party lines, to approve $17.1 billion in cuts to the budget already approved for this fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. The package drew an immediate threat of veto from the White House, with President Clinton complaining that it "cut too much people and not enough pork."

The House Budget Committee voted yesterday to recommend a list of $100 billion in future reductions, saving money through steps as diverse as replacing paper dollars with coins, privatizing the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, cutting National Institutes of Health research funding and phasing out the Legal Services Corporation, which provides legal assistance to the poor.

And the committee also suggested saving another $91 billion by lowering the amount that certain government programs are allowed to grow each year.

"You ain't seen nothing yet," said Budget Committee Chairman John R. Kasich (R-Ohio), who pledged that Republicans will come up with even more cuts in May. Together, the targeted reductions began a long march toward the Republican goal of balancing the federal budget by the year 2002, Kasich said.

The Republican euphoria was marred yesterday, however, as GOP lawmakers tangled among themselves and with Democrats over whether the $17.1 billion in savings from the current budget would go to reduce the deficit or pay for a tax cut.

An hour before the floor vote, however, Kasich announced in his committee that most of the money would be used to help pay for Republican-sponsored tax cuts over the next five years. As the floor vote approached, Rep. David R. Obey shouted that Republicans had "lied in order to pass a bill."

The uncertainty cost the support of at least a dozen fiscally conservative Democrats who had been expected to vote for the bill. Only six Democrats voted for the measure.

The bill now goes to the Senate, where its prospects are uncertain. It would reduce funding for an array of federal programs, including assisted housing, home heating aid, youth summer jobs and Clinton's national service initiative. The initiative, known as Americorps, would lose $416 million over the next two years, all but ending a program that received $370 million last year.

Also hit hard was the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which lost about $141 million over the next two years - half of what it is receiving from the government this year.

The national endowments for the arts and for the humanities were each cut $5 million, although Democrats defeated an amendment yesterday that would have taken another $10 million from the $168 million arts endowment.