Republican leaders quelled an uprising over abortion Wednesday and muscled $17 billion in cuts in housing aid, school improvements and other programs toward House passage.
By a near party-line 242-190 vote, the package cleared a procedural hurdle and began a testy journey toward likely passage today. The Senate is expected to produce its own collection of spending slashes soon.
The measure marks the Republican majority’s initial attempt to push cuts through the House which would begin fulfilling the GOP’s “Contract With America” pledge to eliminate the federal deficit. The reductions would be in funds already enacted into law and would be the biggest such package ever approved.
The debate was peppered with moans from lawmakers of both parties over the measure’s cuts in job training and other initiatives.
In one vote, $206 million cut from popular veterans programs was restored and the money was chopped from President Clinton’s community service program. In another, conservative Republicans lost an attempt to turn the bill’s cuts in aid to public broadcasting to an all-out elimination of the assistance over three years.
Conservatives threatened to desert the measure early Wednesday after GOP leaders yanked language that would have imposed stricter prohibitions on the use of Medicaid funds for abortions. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., pulled those restrictions to retain moderate Republican support for the overall bill. And to keep the conservatives on board, he promised them votes on their abortion language later this year.