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House Could Finalize Spending Cuts by Thursday

Republican lawmakers will seek to move a package of spending cuts to the House floor as early as Thursday, although as Congress returns from its Columbus Day recess, specific details for the plan have yet to be finalized.

A House Republican aide familiar with the legislation, which will be offered as an amendment to the fiscal 2006 budget, said intense discussions are expected at the beginning of the week to finalize the language.

“Clearly the Members will need to be here to iron out the final details,” the aide said, adding that staff-level discussions have been ongoing during the recess.

According to an Oct. 6 memorandum issued to Republican lawmakers, the budget amendment, intended to offset recovery costs for damage caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita along the Gulf Coast, would require committee chairmen to find $50 billion in reductions to mandatory programs, an increase from $35 billion under the existing budget.

Additionally, the amendment would likely include broad cuts in discretionary spending. Although the leadership-authored memorandum does not include a specific percentage, House Budget Chairman Jim Nussle (R-Iowa) earlier suggested a 2 percent cut across the board for all noncombat-related funds.

That proposal has raised concern among some Members, including Homeland Security Chairman Peter King (R-N.Y.), who warned against cutting programs during a Republican Conference meeting in early October.

“Not all spending cuts are alike, and we should go carefully when it comes to homeland security,” King reiterated Friday.

But he added that he is not pushing against the legislation: “I’ll be working with leadership to see what we can do,” King said.

A spokeswoman for Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) could not confirm when the legislation will reach the floor, but she said it is expected to move “quickly” once lawmakers return to Capitol Hill.

“All of the parties involved are working through the process,” said Hastert spokeswoman Lisa Miller.

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