Rehberg’s House panel releases budget proposal

2012-07-17T17:00:00Z 2012-10-17T21:56:56Z Rehberg’s House panel releases budget proposalBy MIKE DENNISON Gazette State Bureau The Billings Gazette

HELENA — U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg on Tuesday unveiled his proposed spending plan for federal health, labor and education programs for fiscal 2013 — a plan immediately slammed by Democrats as unacceptable and “extremely partisan.”

Rehberg, R-Mont., who chairs the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education, released the $150 billion spending plan the day before the panel will vote on the measure in Washington, D.C.

Among other things, the plan defunds most (but not all) programs to implement President Barack Obama’s health care reform law, cuts federal money for family planning and Planned Parenthood, cuts Obama’s “Race to the Top” education program, blocks rules that help labor organizing and maintains or increases funding for Head Start, low-income heating assistance and health research.

Rehberg called his plan “a good starting point,” and said he expects plenty of debate on the proposal that would set spending $6.2 billion lower than health, education and labor budgets for the current year.

“This bill is about making tough choices, setting priorities and doing the right thing,” Rehberg said in a statement. “By reining in spending and controlling over-regulation, this bill supports job creation and economic recovery.”

Yet Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash., the highest-ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, denounced Rehberg’s plan as rife with hard-edged, partisan proposals. He predicted it won’t even be brought up on the House floor, because it can’t get enough votes to pass.

“(Rehberg) made no effort to work with our side of the aisle to accommodate any of our concerns,” Dicks said in a prepared statement. “This bill is an extremely partisan proposal ... and will rightly be disregarded by both the Senate and the president.”

Rehberg’s proposal is the last of the 2013 appropriations bills to be voted on by a subcommittee.

The health, labor and education spending bill also is usually one of the most controversial and expensive, containing billions of dollars in spending on such things as health care reform, education funding and labor relations.

Most of the other 2013 appropriations bills, such as homeland security, commerce, transportation, energy and military construction, have passed the House and been sent to the U.S. Senate.

While Rehberg’s proposal cuts many budgets, it leaves some intact and increases spending in others.

“A careful look was given to all programs and agencies in the bill, with the budget knife aimed at excess spending and underperforming programs, but also with the goal of making wise investments in programs that help the American people the most,” said Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., chair of the House Appropriations.

For example, it mostly maintains or increases budgets for the federal Job Corps, job training for veterans, the National Institutes of Health, Head Start, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program and Title I funding for public schools.

Yet it also would slash or eliminate spending for many programs important to Democrats, such as health care reform, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, family planning clinics and the volunteer AmeriCorps service.

“(Rehberg) proposes a bill loaded down with highly controversial partisan riders and too many programmatic cuts to list,” Dicks said.

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