Sens. John McCain and Tom Coburn propose cuts to offset war spending

By Ed O'Keefe
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Republican senators on Tuesday unveiled two $60 billion proposals that cut government salaries and operational costs to help pay for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and for earthquake relief for Haiti.

Sens. Tom Coburn (Okla.) and John McCain (Ariz.) said they will not vote for the $59 billion war spending bill unless lawmakers come up with ways to offset its costs.

Their first proposal would cap the number of workers at each federal agency and implement a one-year freeze on pay raises, bonuses and other salary increases for civilian federal workers, saving $2.6 billion.

It would also cancel $1.8 million in expenses for a commission reviewing the financial crisis, eliminate $68 million in foreign aid, cancel a $500 million State Department training facility planned for a Maryland community that opposes its construction and collect more than $3 billion in unpaid taxes from federal workers by including a House bill sponsored by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah).

Over 10 years, the plan also would repeal the Energy Star program and cut $4.4 billion in printing and publication costs by publishing some government documents only online. Coburn and McCain also want to cut $8 billion in bonuses for underperforming contractors, $10 billion in nonessential travel and $20 billion in overhead and expenses.

Their second proposal cuts congressional budgets by $100 million, orders the government to sell $15 billion in property and $250 million in unneeded equipment -- at the discretion of the General Services Administration -- and rescind $45 billion in unspent and uncommitted funding.

The proposed amendments to the war supplemental are unlikely to pass, but Coburn said they demonstrate "that Congress can live within its means and pay for this bill."

He and McCain are frequent critics of government spending and often introduce amendments to spending packages to offset costs. Aides said the pair decided to introduce two separate proposals to present a series of cost-cutting options to deficit-wary colleagues.

House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) also floated the idea of cutting federal pay this week as part of an online contest designed to identify spending cuts popular with Republican voters.

The Senate is expected to vote on the approximately $59 billion war supplemental as early as Thursday, aides said.

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