Republicans Plan Sharp Federal Cuts to Education

Education, health and labor programs would face deep cuts under a budget outline for the coming fiscal year to be unveiled shortly by Republicans in the House of Representatives, a congressional source said on Wednesday.

Those programs would face an average cut of 12 percent during the fiscal year which starts October 1, enabling Republicans to shield spending for the military and other areas of the budget from reductions, the source said.

The cuts are sure to draw sharp objections from Democrats, who have championed programs like college-tuition assistance that are likely to fall under the knife.

With the government due to run up against its $14.3 trillion debt limit early next week, the two parties are sharply divided over what steps Washington should take to get its rapidly rising debt load under control. Republicans have championed deep spending cuts, while Democrats say tax increases should be part of the solution as well.

The White House has launched an intensive round of talks with lawmakers to try to find common ground. President Barack Obama was to meet with Senate Democrats later on Wednesday, and with Senate Republicans on Thursday.

In the Democratic-controlled Senate, the top budget writer has floated a plan that would impose a 3 percent surtax on millionaires, according to a separate congressional source.

Democratic Senator Kent Conrad's budget plan would rely equally on tax increases and spending cuts to reduce annual budget deficits by $4 trillion over 10 years, lawmakers and aides have said.

Conrad's budget also calls for significant domestic spending cuts, the source said -- 9 percent less than Obama has requested for discretionary programs, from national parks to space exploration, which Congress funds on an annual basis.

Conrad has yet to publicly release that plan, and it is unclear whether he has enough support to even bring it up for a vote in the Senate. By contrast, the Republican-controlled House has already passed its budget plan and is now beginning the process of determining how to fund individual agencies and government programs.