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Parties expect OK of $38b in hard-fought cuts

Spending bill set for House vote tomorrow

House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, said, 'We need to do much more if we’re serious about creating new jobs.' House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, said, "We need to do much more if we’re serious about creating new jobs."
By David Espo
Associated Press / April 13, 2011

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WASHINGTON — Despite scattered opposition from both ends of the political spectrum, House Republicans and the White House both predicted approval yesterday for the hard-bargained $38 billion package of spending cuts that narrowly avoided a government shutdown.

House Democratic leaders remained noncommittal on the legislation, sealed late last week in negotiations that excluded them.

House Speaker John Boehner, Republican of Ohio, touted the plan somewhat cautiously, saying it was “far from perfect and we need to do much more if we’re serious about creating new jobs.’’

In a posting on his website, Boehner said the measure calls for the largest nonmilitary spending cut in history and would set the stage for a companion vote later in the week on a Republican budget to reduce federal deficits by trillions of dollars over the next decade.

The spending bill covering the rest of the fiscal year through Sept. 30 is ticketed for a vote in the House tomorrow, with the Senate to follow either later in the day or on Friday.

The product of days of brinksmanship, the compromise gave the White House, House Republicans, and Senate Democrats enough to claim victory yet left critics every opportunity to find fault.

Overall, the $38 billion in cuts are less than the $61 billion contained in legislation the House passed in February.

The legislation includes cuts for the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Institutes of Health, community health centers, and the Community Development Block Grant, favored by mayors and other local officials.

Members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation yesterday said it remains unclear how the cuts would affect programs in the Commonwealth.

Efforts to restore funding for an alternative engine for the next generation of fighter jets failed. Pentagon officials stopped paying for development of the engine after House Republicans stripped $450 million for it from their spending bill in February.

The White House and the Pentagon have for several years urged Congress to cut off funding for the F-35 alternative engine despite strong bipartisan support in the House and Senate, including from many members of the Massachusetts delegation.

Since the budget deal came together last week, General Electric Co. has sought funding to be restored. GE’s Lynn, Mass., plant builds jet engines. GE vowed to continue to self-fund the project and renew efforts to restore the federal money next year.

As details of the budget emerged, Senator John F. Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, said he was bracing himself for what he would find. “I fear that a one-size-fits-all, meat-hatchet approach to the cuts without thoughtfully and strategically thinking through the investments for our nation — that threatens not only the recovery, it threatens the long-term economic power of our nation and our ability to compete in the marketplace,’’ he said.

Yet the administration and Senate Democrats did succeed in blunting Republican demands for even deeper reductions in several programs and elimination of others. The deal protects some of President Obama’s top priorities, leaving Head Start untouched, for example, while maintaining the maximum Pell education grant of $5,550.

Two prominent Republican conservatives, Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio and Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, said they would vote against the legislation. “I believe voters are asking us to set our sights higher,’’ said Jordan.

Bachmann, a potential presidential candidate, said on a campaign-style trip to Iowa that she was “very disappointed with the bill that came through. And that’s an understatement.’’

In an appearance at a high school, she said, “Voters expected us to defund Obamacare,’’ a reference to the health care law that passed a year ago. Republicans sought to include provisions that would have effectively voided the year-old health care law, but they were blocked during the negotiations by Obama and Senate majority leader Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada.

In addition to the conservative criticism, Senator Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont, one of the most liberal members of the Senate, said the cuts in the measure amount to “Robin Hood in reverse. It takes from struggling working families and gives to multimillionaires. This is obscene.’’

Despite the criticism, House majority leader Eric Cantor, Republican of Virginia, predicted the legislation would pass and said that “from every indication I have,’’ support will be strong among the GOP rank and file.

At the White House, spokesman Jay Carney said: “The deal as I understand it is moving through Congress and will be signed by the president.’’

Globe reporter Theo Emery contributed to this report.

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