Dems promise spending cuts -- next year 

House Democrats struggling to pass a war funding bill will try to appease their deficit-weary caucus with a budget measure calling for $7 billion in spending cuts next year.

House Budget Committee Chairman John Spratt, D-S.C., said in interview Wednesday the House would forgo the traditional budget process and a politically treacherous vote on future deficits with what he called "a functional equivalent," that would only apply to 2011. This "budget enforcement resolution," Spratt said, would cut spending below the reductions requested by President Obama and would include a provision requiring the House to vote on the recommendations made by a presidential deficit commission that are expected to be announced in December.

Spratt said he worked to come up with budget reductions that vulnerable freshman and sophomore members could bring back to their districts to show constituents they are working to cut government spending.

The budget measure is to be packaged with the war funding bill, but Democratic leaders are having a difficult time finding a way to pass that bill, in part because it is not fully paid for and would add to the nation's $1.3 trillion deficit.

"There has been a shift in terms of understanding that today there is a higher threshold than there was 12 months ago for deficit spending, and you are going to have to have a pretty good reason for not having offsets," said Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., who is president of the House freshman class.

The war bill includes money for Afghanistan and Iraq and lacks support from the large liberal faction. Some moderate Democrats are also opposed because they want to find a way to offset the war funding, which traditionally is added to the deficit.

"We want it to be offset, including Afghanistan and Iraq," said Rep. Walter Minnick, a vulnerable freshman. "Many of us are increasingly of the position that if it is not paid for, we can't support it."

Democrats are also hoping to add billions in domestic spending to the war funding bill, which many in their caucus are flat out refusing the back if unpaid for.

"My vote will be hard to get if there are no offsets," Connolly said.

Democratic leaders are considering a strategy that would allow for separate votes on the war bill and the domestic items including money to states to prevent teacher layoffs.

"Some of us do not want to see the vote combined," said Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., who opposes the war in Afghanistan and plans to introduce a resolution cutting off funding for the recent surge.

Rep. John Larson, D-Conn., who heads the House Democratic Caucus, said the difficulty in passing spending bills has been exacerbated by the sour economy.

"Any time you find yourself in a situation where you lose $17 trillion in wealth and assets and that weighs heavily on the American mind, every issue becomes a difficult issue from a budgetary standpoint," Larson said.

sferrechio@washingtonexaminer.com

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