House GOP measure would kill AmeriCorps program

Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Republicans Tuesday unveiled legislation to get rid of AmeriCorps, the national service program, and cut off federal funding for National Public Radio, public television and Planned Parenthood.

The moves would come in a controversial spending bill that pays for labor, health and education programs for the budget year beginning Oct. 1.

The measure is dead on arrival with Democrats but contains many provisions to please tea party conservatives.

"This bill is an extremely partisan proposal, stands little chance of even being brought up on the House floor, and will rightly be disregarded by both the Senate and the president," said Rep. Norm Dicks of Washington, top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee.

It's the last of 12 annual spending bills for the upcoming budget year to be released. The GOP-controlled House has passed six of the measures but the Democratic Senate has yet to debate a single measure, and lawmakers are sure to have to pass a stopgap funding bill in September to avoid a government shutdown when the fiscal year ends on Sept. 30.

The bill would deny funding to implement President Barack Obama's health care law but, Democrats say, funnels more than $3 billion of those savings to cover other expenditures such as keeping grants for community health centers at current levels. Overall, the measure cuts funding under lawmakers' direct control by 4 percent to $150 billion.

Many of the proposed cuts have been rejected in the past, like a bid to eliminate family planning programs.

The cuts to community service programs, funded at $1 billion this year, would slash such programs by 74 percent on the path to eliminating them entirely, save for a program for senior citizens. National Public Radio and the Public Broadcasting Service are familiar targets, too, but have been rejected before. NPR is seen as left-leaning while Republicans say PBS could get along just fine without taxpayer help.

But to find the $6.3 billion in cuts across the measure, Republicans went well beyond simply slashing Democratic initiatives. Funding of $10.7 billion to administer the Social Security program, for instance, would be cut $1.1 billion below President Barack Obama's request, cutting funding for computers upgrades, new hires and "program integrity" money designed to find mistakes and combat fraud. Medicare and the Medicaid health program for the poor and disabled would absorb an even larger cut to operating funds.

The legislation would, however, maintain heating subsidies for the poor at $3.4 billion and Title I school funding at $15 billion and give a slight boost to special education for the disabled. Head Start would get a small increase and grants for local community action groups that serve the elderly and the poor would be maintained at the current budget of $712 million.

The measure would also block new rules to prevent black lung disease among coal miners. It seeks to block a new program championed by first lady Michelle Obama to promote healthy eating, as well as new safety rules designed to prevent construction workers from falling off roofs.

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