WASHINGTON (AP) – As House Republicans learn the details of a $50 billion budget savings measure that would cut federal programs such as Medicaid, food stamps and farm subsidies, they are finding a lot not to like.

Members in Rust Belt districts would face elimination of a program that compensates industries harmed by unfair foreign trade practices. Lawmakers from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and New York fear the loss of income payments to dairy farmers when milk prices drop.

And pro-environment Republicans oppose a plan contained in the proposal to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling.

These issues are among dozens in play as eight House committees meet this week to draft their contributions to the overall bill, which would implement a congressional budget blueprint passed in April. The plan is a top priority of GOP leaders determined to hone their budget-cutting credentials amid criticism from conservatives that the party is not doing enough to control spending.

Most Republicans embrace the broadly popular idea of fiscal discipline, but enacting the specific policy changes required to implement the cuts is another matter. Moderate Republicans are particularly unhappy, but regional tensions also are at work.

Nowhere are such regional rivalries felt as keenly as in the food programs and farm subsidies under the jurisdiction of the Agriculture Committee. Chairman Robert Goodlatte, R-Va., has yet to formally announce his proposal, but moderates from urban areas are already protesting plans to cut food stamps, while milk producers from traditional dairy states are upset that he will permit the Milk Income Loss Contract program to fold.

The Senate Budget Committee meets Wednesday to vote on a smaller $35 billion, five-year budget savings measure as GOP leaders in that chamber gird for a rough floor debate to begin as early as next week.

With the higher budget savings target, the emerging House measure promises to be a more politically challenging vote for Republicans than the companion Senate bill. The House plan contains curbs in programs for the poor such as Medicaid, food stamps, Supplemental Security Income payments and welfare that Senate panels avoided.

House GOP leaders are still struggling to pass a non-binding bill this week to demonstrate support for the $50 billion in cuts to so-called mandatory spending programs. They account for 55 percent of the federal budget and continue to grow each year unless Congress passes legislation to change them.

In fact, the House budget plan pales when compared to budget cut bills that passed in 1995 and 1997. And it avoids cuts to a tax credit for the working poor, curbs to unemployment insurance and other cuts that advocates for the poor had feared. Still, it has some controversial provisions, including cuts to Medicaid that will be felt by beneficiaries.

Among more controversial provisions, the House plan would:

– Raise $2.4 billion in ANWR oil lease revenues.

– Cut off funding for a program championed by Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., that directs duties recovered from trading partners who “dump” their exports to U.S. producers most harmed by such unfair trade practices. Republican lawmakers from steel-producing states such as Pennsylvania support the program.

– Increase work requirements for welfare recipients but limit increases for child care below prior welfare reform bills.

AP-ES-10-24-05 1838EDT


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