(Bloomberg News) Republican U.S. Representative Mike Simpson often begins speeches on the federal budget in his home state of Idaho with two questions.
First, he asks constituents whether they think budget deficits are a threat to the nation's security. Every hand goes up. The same happens when he asks if the government needs to spend less.
He then tells them the cheering is likely to stop: "By the time we're done, if we do what's right, every one of you is going to be mad at us."
While most attention has focused on cuts to Medicare in the 2012 budget that House Republicans passed on April 15, party lawmakers will also face a backlash against plans to slash $62 billion, or about 15%, from non-security discretionary programs, or those for which spending isn't mandated. The targets range from education and disease research to transportation and public safety.
The plan, written by Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, would cap non-security discretionary spending at $360 billion for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 and freeze it for five years. That's equal to 2006 spending levels. Democrats say that over a decade that means cuts to education, job training and social services of 25% below levels needed to maintain current services.
The reductions, which come on top of the $38.5 billion taken out of this year's budget, would need to be so deep because non-security spending makes up only about 12% of the budget and the plan calls for taxes to be cut. Appropriators this week returned from a two-week congressional recess to begin the process of targeting specific programs to meet Ryan's goal.
'Axe Will Fall'
Representative Chris Van Hollen, the top Democrat on the Budget Committee, said the Republican plan means "significant cuts" to research budgets at the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy.
While it's unclear "exactly where the axe will fall," the Maryland lawmaker said his calculations show the Republican budget also would mean a 27% reduction from current levels in the budget category that funds local firefighters, and an 18% cut in the funding area that includes a program that puts more police officers on the street.
Representative George Miller, the top Democrat on the Education and Workforce Committee, said the Republican budget would mean the maximum Pell Grant award to help low-income students afford college would be cut by more than $2,500, bringing the top award to $3,040, the lowest since 1998.