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GOP's agenda calls for huge government cuts

WASHINGTON — Republicans are mapping out an agenda for the new Congress that calls for a radical reduction in government spending, a hard-line stance against new taxes and a "sustained" battle against federal regulators — all aimed at easing the concerns of voters desperate for jobs and anxious about the soaring national debt.

The path charted in the party's "Pledge to America" and in a blueprint released this week by Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., the No. 2 Republican in the House, is certain to provoke clashes with the White House. It is already stirring dissension among Republicans who say it doesn't go far enough. Less certain is its ability to make progress on economic priorities such as job creation.

Republicans reject the notion that government spending can spur prosperity. Instead, they favor keeping tax rates steady by extending Bush administration tax breaks that are set to expire this year and repealing President Barack Obama's health care overhaul. Republicans also want to restrain government regulators and are looking to require congressional approval for any new regulation that imposes costs on the private sector in excess of $100 million a year.

On Friday, Cantor even rejected Obama's call for additional tax breaks to spur hiring, such as a proposal to let businesses deduct their expenses more quickly.

Republicans offer "a disciplined approach to removing uncertainty and to allowing the private sector to regain its footing and begin to grow again," Cantor said in an interview. "Trying to prod business to do what Washington wants is not what is needed."

That hands-off strategy, along with GOP plans for an immediate and dramatic cut in government spending, would do more harm than good, said Bill Gale, a Brookings Institution senior fellow in economic studies.

"I don't get what they think they're doing to stimulate the economy right now," Gale said.

To make good on their campaign pledge to reduce the size of government, Republicans say they are planning a series of quick moves to slash spending soon after they take control of the House in January. Among the likely options: a massive rescissions package that aides said would slice 20 percent from most domestic agency budgets and enact $160 billion in additional cuts endorsed by visitors to Cantor's "YouCut" website.

Such a package would trim more than $260 billion from this year's $1.1 trillion budget for most government operations.

Because Republicans propose to exempt the Pentagon, veterans programs and homeland security from these cuts, liberal analysts said the reductions would decimate education funding, the National Park Service and other programs.

Conservatives, meanwhile, dismissed the proposal as too puny to satisfy a public fed up with three years of bailouts, deficit spending and other far-reaching government programs.

"This is a good start, but Congress can do much more," said Brian Riedl, lead budget analyst for the Heritage Foundation.

GOP's agenda calls for huge government cuts 11/05/10 [Last modified: Friday, November 5, 2010 10:29pm]
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