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The GOP promises big-time cutbacks

White House says plans could lead to widespread furloughs of federal employees.

WASHINGTON — Republicans now controlling the House promised Thursday to slash domestic agencies’ budgets by almost 20 percent for the coming year, the first salvo in what’s sure to be a bruising battle over their drive to cut spending to where it was before President Barack Obama took office.

"Washington’s spending spree is over," declared Paul Ryan, the House Budget Committee chairman who announced the plan. "The spending limits will restore sanity to a broken budget process," he said, returning "to pre-stimulus, pre-bailout levels."

But, Democrats are in charge of the White House and the Senate, and even House Republicans may have second thoughts when the magnitude of the cuts sinks in.

The White House says the GOP effort could cause widespread furloughs of federal employees, force vulnerable people off subsidized housing, reduce national parks services and mean less aid to schools and police and fire departments.

House Republicans are seeking to keep their campaign promise to cut $100 billion from domestic programs. The initial cuts would win approval over the coming weeks as Congress wraps up the long-overdue 2011 budget. The second stage would come as the House GOP advances spending bills for the 2012 budget year, which begins Oct. 1.

The hardest hit agencies would include the Food and Drug Administration, the Internal Revenue Service and the departments of Commerce, Housing and Urban Development and Agriculture, according to partial details released by the House Appropriations Committee.

A stopgap spending bill passed in December expires March 4. Enacting a full-year bill promises to be a difficult test of the new balance of power in Washington. Republicans control only the House, but Democrats acknowledge that — with the deficit on pace to hit $1.5 trillion this year — some spending cuts will have to be made.

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