WASHINGTON — House Republicans approved a sweeping package of budget cuts to food stamps, Meals on Wheels and other domestic programs — while sparing the Pentagon — in an election-year showcase of party priorities.
Democrats overwhelmingly opposed the legislation, which is expected to stall in the Senate, but House Speaker John Boehner's decision to call a vote gives the GOP an opportunity to highlight its agenda and attack President Barack Obama's efforts to reduce the deficit. The bill was approved on party lines, 218-199.
The legislation is "literally taking food out of the mouth of babies" while continuing tax breaks for the wealthy, said Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., the minority leader.
The cuts would replace across-the-board reductions to both defense and non-security programs that had been agreed to as part of last summer's debt-ceiling deal with the White House.
Republicans countered they were tackling the nation's deficit problems while preventing steep military cuts that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has said would be devastating.
"We're hearing lots of comments about how this hurts people, how this hurts the poor," said Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., the House Budget Committee chairman. "Let's take a look at our poverty-fighting efforts. ... These programs aren't working."
The legislation would cut $242 billion over 10 years — a down payment on the $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction Congress had agreed to after months of negotiations as part of last summer's deal to raise the debt ceiling.