WASHINGTON — As their leaders began unveiling tens of billions of dollars in budget cuts, most House Republicans united Friday behind a plan that would dramatically reshape the federal government, setting the stage for a showdown with Senate Democrats next month.
Republicans, who control the House, yielded to calls from their conservative wing and roughly doubled the size of spending cuts to be considered next week, as part of a resolution to fund the federal government for the remainder of fiscal 2011.
They offered a real cut in spending of about $60 billion. But more important to the conservatives, the reductions amount to $100 billion less than President Barack Obama's 2011 budget called for spending. That budget was never enacted.
Republicans from moderate districts began to privately express concerns about the steep cuts, but conservatives cheered the additional trims as an important political objective — meeting a campaign pledge they made last fall to grass roots activists.
"It's not about demands; it's about us standing up on some principles and letting (people) know that we support them," said Rep. Allen West, R-Plantation, an outspoken member of the new freshman class. West will give the keynote speech today at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington.
"You don't get a second chance at a first impression, and it's extremely important that we keep our word to the American people," said Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., a veteran who is considered a bellwether among conservatives. "I'm reasonably confident that House Republicans will meet that objective and cut $100 billion or more."
But senior members of the House Appropriations Committee, which crafted the new spending plan, have indicated their concern that the level of cuts could threaten any chances of reaching a bipartisan deal with the Democratic-controlled Senate, which is to take up its budget bill in March.
The House plan leaves few domestic programs untouched, with cuts in spending on education, job training, the environment, nutrition and more. The complete bill was expected to be released late Friday night, with debate to begin Tuesday.
The stopgap measure that currently funds government operations, mostly at 2010 levels, expires March 4, and the GOP hopes to use this as its first chance to extract serious spending cuts from the White House.