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Program Cuts

Bush Calls for Familiar Trims

Congress Refused Many in First Term

By Charles Babington
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 8, 2005; Page A07

President Bush's budget plan calls for cuts in Amtrak, beach restoration, education, local police grants and dozens of other programs. Bush has tried to slash such programs before, only to have Congress -- which is controlled by his party -- refuse.

Lawmakers and activist groups yesterday predicted similar results this year, because even the most obscure or controversial federal programs have their constituencies and their defenders in both parties.

Hundreds waited at the Government Printing Office for copies of President Bush's 2006 budget. (Melina Mara -- The Washington Post)

_____Live Discussion_____
Transcript: Brookings Economist William Gale discusses the 2006 budget.
Transcript: Post's Jonathan Weisman

_____More Coverage_____
President Sends '06 Budget to Congress (The Washington Post, Feb 8, 2005)
Congress Unlikely to Embrace Bush Wish List (The Washington Post, Feb 8, 2005)
Troops' Pay Raise, Retooling Efforts Come With Price (The Washington Post, Feb 8, 2005)
Plan Avoids Rollbacks That Some Feared (The Washington Post, Feb 8, 2005)
For Budget Director, No Red Ink and the Skies Are Not Cloudy All Day (The Washington Post, Feb 8, 2005)

"Programs like Amtrak, beach replenishment and education funding have so much support in Congress that I believe the funding will be restored," Rep. Michael N. Castle (R-Del.) said, even as he praised Bush's "efforts to scrub every federal program for waste and abuse."

Castle's spokeswoman, Elizabeth B. Wenk, said the administration's budget not only calls for halting future beach restoration projects conducted by the Army Corps of Engineers but also proposes an immediate halt to the multimillion-dollar Dewey-Rehoboth Beach project underway. President Bill Clinton also tried to slash federal spending on beach replenishment, she said, but lawmakers representing oceanfront communities would not allow it.

"They know the entire Northeast is going to fight to get that put back in," Wenk said. "And they always win."

The White House wants to eliminate or slash 150 programs throughout the government, many of them dealing with housing, the environment, education, community grants, health programs and transportation.

Under Bush's proposed budget cuts, nearly all of Amtrak's federal funding would end as would money for the Railroad Rehabilitation & Improvement Financing program. A next-generation high-speed rail research program would also be scrapped.

Within the Labor Department, the four Workforce Investment Act state grant programs would be cut by $61.5 million and would merge into a single $3.9 billion program. The $76 million Migrant and Seasonal Farmworker job-training program would end as would the $49 million Responsible Reintegration for Young Offenders program.

At the Environmental Protection Agency, water-quality protection programs would be cut by $170 million, and land preservation and restoration programs would lose about $115 million.

In agriculture, payments to individual farmers would be capped at $250,000, and crop and dairy payments would fall by 5 percent. All federally subsidized farmers would have to buy enough private insurance to cover at least half their losses from floods, droughts and crop failures.

Congressional GOP leaders promise to consider the proposals, saying they are determined to get spending under control. But history suggests it is much easier to propose cutting programs than to accomplish it, even when Republicans control the House, the Senate and the White House.

According to the White House, Bush proposed curtailing or eliminating 128 programs last year, including 15 that were to be "zeroed out" because the administration concluded they were not effective. The GOP-controlled Congress restored all but two, for a savings of $25 million.

No one should be surprised, congressional scholars say. Congress's budget and appropriations systems are designed to make it difficult to kill any program that has a determined defender, especially in the majority party, they say.

Trying to kill federal programs is "like moving the bones in a graveyard," said Paul Light, a professor of government at New York University. "You don't find out who owns them until you move them." Republicans, Light said, "favor smaller government until you start talking about their programs."

Stephen Slivinski, director of budget studies for the libertarian Cato Institute, said, "It seems the House and Senate Republicans, despite what they say, don't really want to cut spending." The budget-making rules, he said, "are stacked to help those who want to keep programs going."

Meanwhile, almost every alphabet-soup program in the government has champions throughout the country and in Congress. Bush again is trying to slash the Manufacturing Extension Partnership, cutting its $109 million budget to about $47 million. Doing so "would harm America's innovation delivery system at the very time when the nation's small and mid-sized manufacturers face enormous challenges," says the American Small Manufacturers Coalition.

The coalition's congressional allies include Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio), who will fight to have the program fully funded, his office said yesterday.

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