GOP-led House seeks to punish IRS with budget cuts
Washington • The GOP-controlled House unveiled slashing cuts to the budget of the Internal Revenue Service on Tuesday, punishing the beleaguered agency after it targeted tea party groups and other nonprofits seeking tax-exempt status.
The agency's 2014 budget would be cut by $3 billion, or 24 percent below levels approved in March. Also, 10 percent of its budget for tax enforcement would be fenced off until the IRS implements recommendations by an agency watchdog designed to prevent further abuses.
The IRS cuts come after a wave of bad publicity for the agency including questionable spending on conferences like a lavish $4.1 million event in 2010 that included a "Star Trek" video parody and a $17,000 payment to a motivational speaker who was a painter.
President Barack Obama had requested a $1 billion increase for the IRS.
"Right now I can't think of a federal agency in a worse position to ask for more money," said Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas.
The Appropriations Committee also revealed cuts to NASA, White House salaries, and the Securities and Exchange Commission. The full House took up a $30.4 billion measure funding the Energy Department and water projects that is about $3 billion below levels enacted earlier this year. Democrats protested cuts to clean and renewable energy programs.
Democrats controlling a Senate panel, meanwhile, went in a wholly opposite direction in giving a $1.3 billion increase to a Health and Human Services Department account responsible for implementing Obama's signature health care law.
At issue are the annual spending bills funding the day-to-day operations of federal agencies. The GOP-controlled House and Democratic-led Senate are acting as if on different planets, with the Senate ignoring deep automatic spending cuts and the House promising even more punishing cuts to domestic programs while restoring cuts to the Pentagon.
The House is drafting spending bills in line with a $967 billion "cap" required by automatic cuts that took effect in March after Washington failed to agree on an alternative mix of tax increases and cuts elsewhere in the $3.5 trillion federal budget. The Senate is writing bills to a $1.058 trillion cap, almost a full 10 percent higher. But the House GOP cuts to domestic programs are greatly magnified by a $41 billion shift from nondefense programs like NASA, education and research on renewable energy to the Pentagon.