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House GOP group proposes deep spending cuts over next decade

The 2010 election brought scores of tea party-backed candidates into Washington.

According to Democratic estimates, cuts of that magnitude - if applied across the board - would require the Justice Department to fire 4,000 FBI agents and 1,500 agents at the Drug Enforcement Administration. The federal prison system would have to fire 5,700 correctional officers, the Agriculture Department would have to cut about 3,000 food safety inspectors, and the Head Start early-childhood education program would be forced to cut about 389,000 children from its rolls.

The study committee's proposal focuses instead on more palatable cuts, such as a plan to rescind unspent money from the 2009 economic stimulus package. The group estimates that would save $45 billion, though other congressional estimates put the figure as low as $3 billion.

The committee's proposal also would prohibit federal money from being spent on any provision of Obama's health-care overhaul or its defense in court in 2011. The House voted this week to repeal the law, which Republicans consider an unacceptable government intrusion into the private health-care system.

In addition to its demand for immediate reductions, the study committee recommended cutting more than $2.5 trillion in spending over the next decade by firing 15 percent of the federal workforce and returning to 2006 spending levels for non-defense agencies starting in 2012.

The plan targets a long list of programs for elimination, including the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Arts, Amtrak and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

In addition, the plan proposes to cut off payments to the District - about $210 million a year - that compensate for burdens placed on the city by the federal government, such as the need for an extra police presence during major political events, and revenue lost because vast tracts of federal land are not taxed. It would also eliminate a $150 million repair budget approved for the Washington area's Metro system.

But the list adds up to a tiny fraction of the total the study committee is looking to cut. Jim Horney, a budget analyst at the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said Republicans would have to cut most agencies by more than 40 percent over the next decade to meet the committee's goals.

At a noon news conference, committee members - including three freshman Republicans - said they are up to the task.

"I think most freshmen feel like I do, that we've got to do some big, big things," said Rep. Joe Walsh (Ill.), a tea party favorite from Chicago's northern suburbs. "If we don't do something like this, the Republican Party is going to be in trouble electorally in the next two years. The voters sent us here to do this."

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