WASHINGTON – After a line-by-line scrub of the federal budget, President Barack Obama has signed off on a roster of 121 budget cuts totaling $17 billion – or about one-half of 1 percent of the $3.4 trillion budget Congress has approved for next year.
Budget Director Peter Orszag briefed Democratic lawmakers on a partial roster of the cuts Wednesday before a public release today. Some of the cuts are sure to rankle lawmakers, such as the elimination of the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program, which gives money to states to help defray the cost of incarcerating illegal immigrants who commit crimes. President George W. Bush tried and failed to kill the $400 million program several times.
A senior White House official said the cuts would total $17 billion, with about half the savings coming from the Pentagon budget, and the other half from domestic programs. Most of the savings, $11.5 billion, would come from appropriated programs.
Obama has said repeatedly his administration will go through the budget “line by line” to eliminate waste. But the resulting savings are relatively minor compared with the government’s fiscal woes, especially a deficit that’s likely to exceed $1.5 trillion this year.
Republicans weren’t impressed with the budget cuts.
“While we appreciate the newfound attention to saving taxpayer dollars from this administration, we respectfully suggested that we should do far more,” House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said.
Many of the cuts mirror those proposed previously by Bush but largely rejected by Congresses controlled by both Republicans and Democrats.
In a preview, administration officials cited five program cuts to be outlined in the budget document today:
•Federal support for an older aircraft navigation system, LORAN-C, which stands for long-range radio navigation, would be eliminated for a savings of $35 million a year. LORAN-C has largely been replaced by satellite-based navigation systems.
•Payments to states for cleaning up abandoned mines – mines that have already been cleaned up – would be eliminated, at a savings of $142 million.
•Ending the Education Department’s attaché in Paris, at a savings of $632,000 a year.
•Eliminating the Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation, saving $1 million a year. The officials said that now, only about 20 percent of the appropriation is actually paid out in fellowships and awards.
•Federal support of the Even Start program would be killed, at a savings of $66 million for 2010. The administration contends that, while the intention of the early-childhood education program is worthy, other programs covering the same ground, including Early Head Start and Head Start, do a better job.
In other budget areas, the administration would keep paying for private-school vouchers for about 1,700 children receiving them in Washington, D.C., an administration official said. Obama is proposing $12.2 million for the 2010-’11 school year and would like to continue the funding until the kids in the program graduate. He would not allow new students into the program.