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Friday, May 11, 2012 - Page updated at 06:30 p.m.

House OKs budget package that cuts programs for poor

By Lisa Mascaro
Tribune Washington bureau

WASHINGTON — House Republicans on Thursday approved a sweeping package of budget cuts to food stamps, Meals on Wheels and other domestic programs — while sparing the Pentagon — in an election-year showcase of party priorities.

The legislation is expected to stall in the Senate, but House Speaker John Boehner's decision to call a vote gives the Republican Party an opportunity to highlight its agenda and attack President Obama's efforts to reduce the deficit. The bill was approved on party lines, 218-199. Democrats were united in opposition; 16 Republicans, including Washington state's Jaime Herrera Beutler, sided with Democrats.

If the bill became law, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that more than 20 million children would face reduced food and nutrition support, almost 300,000 would be knocked off the federal school-lunch program, and at least 300,000 would lose access to the State Children's Health Insurance Program.

The legislation is "literally taking food out of the mouth of babies" while continuing tax breaks for the wealthy, said Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California. The cuts would replace across-the-board reductions to defense and nonsecurity programs that had been agreed to as part of last summer's debt-ceiling deal.

Republicans countered they were tackling the nation's deficit problems while preventing steep military cuts that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has said would be devastating.

"We're hearing lots of comments about how this hurts people, how this hurts the poor," said Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., the House Budget Committee chairman. "Let's take a look at our poverty-fighting efforts. ... These programs aren't working."

The legislation would cut more than $300 billion over 10 years, a down payment on the $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction that Congress had agreed to after months of talks as part of last summer's deal to raise the debt ceiling.

Seattle Times staff contributed to this report. Information from The New York Times also is included.

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