WASHINGTON - A House panel Wednesday moved to cut the foreign-aid budget by 9 percent, targeting economic aid and contributions to the United Nations and the World Bank.
Despite the cuts, the legislation won bipartisan backing from the Appropriations foreign-aid panel, though it's sure to draw a White House veto threat because it is in line with a broader GOP spending plan that breaks with last summer's budget and debt pact with President Obama.
The panel maintains aid to Israel and Egypt at the administration's requests but denies $800 million that was requested for a special fund for training and equipping Pakistan's military in counterinsurgency tactics. The move appears to reflect wariness on the part of lawmakers toward the government of Pakistan, which failed to find Osama bin Laden for years until the U.S. military killed him a year ago.
The administration's veto threat comes in response to a move orchestrated by GOP leaders like Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio to cut $19 billion from the $1 trillion-plus set aside for agency budgets.
The House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday voted to build a missile-defense site on the East Coast, though the Pentagon says the site is not needed. It rejected an amendment by Rep. John Garamendi (D., Calif.) to eliminate funds for the project, 33-28.
The bill calls for construction of the site by the end of 2015 and includes $100 million to study possible sites. Democrats estimated that the project could cost nearly $5 billion.
The full House continued debating a $51 billion measure setting the operating budget for the Commerce and Justice Departments. A late night was expected as conservatives peppered the measure with conservative policy prescriptions such as blocking the Justice Department from enforcing Obama's 2010 health-care law.
In rapid succession Wednesday evening, Republicans also pushed through on near party-line votes provisions designed to prevent the Justice Department from taking legal action against state laws requiring voter identification and stop the Census Bureau from conducting detailed, long-form surveys that many lawmakers find to be unnecessarily intrusive.
Republicans were successful Tuesday night in a 238-173 vote to block the Justice Department from participating in lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of tough new state immigration laws.
Meanwhile, Obama's top Democratic ally in the Senate said Wednesday that he won't block much-feared automatic spending cuts to the Pentagon and Medicare providers from taking effect unless Republicans show more flexibility on cutting the budget deficit.
Majority Leader Harry Reid said that $110 billion in automatic cuts coming due in January were designed to force both parties to bargain over a "balanced approach" to tackling deficits.