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Md., Va. senators prepare to fight proposed cuts to area programs

Jolted to action by deficit-conscious newcomers, the Republican-controlled House passed sweeping legislation early Saturday to cut $61 billion from hundreds of federal programs. (Feb 19)

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Goodlatte's move was welcomed by agricultural groups, who have complained that the EPA plan would impose huge, unrealistic costs on farmers.

But the Chesapeake Bay Foundation said the move would "undo 25 years' worth of bipartisan and broad-based efforts to save the Chesapeake Bay."

Cardin said that although Senate Democrats would have to compromise with Republicans on the bill's overall funding levels, Democrats should not have to compromise on the "language" in the bill and that the GOP should not use the spending measure to create policy.

Kevin Hall, a spokesman for Sen. Mark R. Warner (Va.), said that the Democrat would oppose the House funding cuts. Warner is an advocate for a broader budget deal that would tackle runaway entitlement spending, Hall said, and Republicans' targeting of local programs showed the "folly of focusing deep cuts on a tiny sliver of the overall budget."

In the District, the federal government's funding for the city would take an $80 million hit, and D.C. would face the same restrictions on needle-exchange programs and abortions that were in place the last time Republicans controlled Congress. If House Republicans insist on the restrictions, it's not clear how hard Senate Democrats will be willing to fight against them.

After the House vote, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) said she was "rounding up Senate allies who, along with the Obama administration, are committed to preserving D.C.'s home-rule rights and dignity as a local jurisdiction."

Beyond those specific policy prescriptions, the House's bill would also have a broader impact on the local economy.

Stephen Fuller, the director of the Center for Regional Analysis at George Mason University, estimates that federal spending fuels one-third of the D.C. metropolitan area's $410 billion economy. Any significant cut in government outlays - or layoffs of federal employees - would hit the region hard.

"Our federal employees have a contract with their government," Mikulski said. "That contract should be honored."

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