House Appropriations Committee Approves $32B Budget Cut, Reducing Foreign Aid, Domestic Spending For FY11

The House Appropriations Committee “voted, 27-22, Tuesday evening to move ahead with Republican plans for cutting” $32 billion “from domestic and foreign aid spending over the last seven months of this fiscal year,” Politico reports (Rogers, 2/8).

“The panel was not voting on actual legislation, just a very general outline of where the budget might be cut next when Republicans bring the sprawling measure to the floor for what is certain to be a freewheeling debate,” the Associated Press/NPR reports, adding that some Republicans on the panel “promised to try to cut the measure even further during floor debate next week” (2/8).

“The committee is expected to unveil Thursday the specific cuts that will be made in legislation to meet the levels the committee approved,” according to The Hill’s “On The Money” blog. “That continuing resolution [CR] funding the government after March 4 will come to the floor next week and is sure to face resistance in the Democratic Senate. Failure to agree on a CR could result in a government shutdown,” the blog notes.

In response to the vote, Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) “described the cuts as ‘gutting’ overseas embassies … Republican Rep. Jeff Flake (Ariz.), on the other hand, said he would vote against the allocations since they are not deep enough. Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ga.) said that the cuts were just the ‘opening kick off’ in a long season of cutting that will continue through a Republican Study Committee floor amendment seeking $100 billion in cuts,” according to “On The Money” (Wasson, 2/8).

Lawmakers Begin To Agree That U.S. Aid To Egypt Should Not Be Cut

“Influential U.S. lawmakers have eased their threats to cut aid to Egypt, reflecting a growing consensus in Washington for preserving U.S. leverage with Egypt’s powerful military amid the country’s civil upheaval,” the Los Angeles Times reports. According to the newspaper, “Obama administration officials, the Pentagon and powerful pro-Israel groups” are behind efforts to ensure U.S. aid to Egypt, which amounts to about $1.5 billion annually, continues.

“Just last week, a chorus of lawmakers backed protesters’ demands for Mubarak’s resignation, and some called for an aid freeze to force changes,” the Los Angeles Times writes, noting the position of Subcommittee on the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Chair Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who said “he would not vote for aid to Egypt, adding that he knew no lawmaker who would.” But things have changed this week and “Leahy appeared to soften his position,” the newspaper reports (Richter/Cloud/Hennessey, 2/9).

On Tuesday, Leahy “said he had not made any final decisions about the $1.5 billion in aid President Obama has requested for Egypt … And Leahy deferred for the time being to the appropriations process playing out in the House,” CQ writes. “Appropriations by tradition begin in the House,” he said, adding, “We’ll see what they put in theirs, and then we’ll react to it.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), the subcommittee’s ranking Republican, who disagreed with Leahy’s position last week, “said he had not spoken with Leahy about the status of aid to Egypt … The military has emerged as a crucial arbiter between the protesters and the Mubarak regime in the crisis. ‘My view is, let’s see how this unfolds,’ Graham said. He reiterated, however, that the Egyptian military remains an important U.S. partner, and said he continues to believe that ‘this kind of aid is a national security imperative,'” the publication reports.

Also on Tuesday, the White House released a read-out of a telephone conversation between Vice President Joe Biden and Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman. “[T]he White House said Biden emphasized U.S. support for an orderly transition of power in Egypt and discussed additional steps the Egyptian government could take to hasten that transition” (Cadei, 2/8). The Los Angeles Times also notes that “Obama will submit his 2012 budget to Congress next week, which is expected to include continued aid to Egypt” (2/9).

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