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White House orders agencies to cut their budgets – AP

August 19, 2011

White House orders agencies to cut their budgets

Aug 19, 7:55 AM EDT

By ALAN FRAM – Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — It’s a microcosm of the budget battling that has consumed Congress all year: The Obama administration wants federal agencies to save money while Republicans push for additional savings to take a substantial bite out of the government’s towering pile of IOUs.

White House budget chief Jacob Lew has ordered agency heads to submit spending plans for the upcoming budget at least 5 percent below this year’s levels. He also wants them to propose ways to trim a total of at least 10 percent of their spending.

Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Thursday that Lew’s directive was a good way to start finding spending cuts that are required under the recent debt-ceiling agreement between the two sides.

“But the White House must get serious about real structural reform of our entitlement programs if we’re going to get our debt under control to help our economy grow and create jobs,” Steel said, referring to huge and fast-growing benefit programs like Social Security and Medicare that help drive annual deficits skyward.

Lew’s letter did not rule out, or even address, the possibility of finding savings from benefit programs. But Steel’s remark pointed directly at the major fault line that has blocked a sweeping debt-cutting deal between the two parties: Democrats have resisted paring benefits from Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, while Republicans have refused to consider tax increases.

The Obama administration has asked agencies in years past to propose similar savings. But Lew’s order comes just two weeks after Obama and congressional Republicans ended an epic debt ceiling battle that has left both sides eager to demonstrate a willingness to trim red ink ahead of a fierce autumn battle over the economy and the debt and just as the 2012 presidential and congressional elections approach.

via Daily Record | Morris County NJ | AP Wire.

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