GOP senator seeks $120 billion in funding cuts

As Senate leaders continue to hash out a deal on amendments to the debt limit bill, Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., Thursday said he plans to offer a measure rescinding $120 billion in funding by consolidating more than 640 government programs he believes are duplicative.

In a statement, Coburn said the cuts would "alleviate the need to increase the national debt limit," which would rise by $1.9 trillion if the bill is passed. A vote on the amendment would likely come next week, according to his office.

Of the $120 billion in cuts, roughly $100 billion would come from rescinding discretionary funding that has been available for more than two years but not designated for a particular purpose, the statement said.

In addition, the amendment would rescind $4.1 billion from the Health and Human Services Department and direct it to eliminate and consolidate more than 36 duplicative programs. Another $3.2 billion would be rescinded from the Education Department, while 230 federal education programs would be consolidated or scrapped.

Other amendments on tap include a proposal from Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., that would end the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

Republicans have argued the program should end now because the financial system has been stabilized --- a key goal of the program. They also contend TARP should not be used for other purposes, which would be have to be funded by additional borrowing.

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., has countered the program should continue and be used to create jobs.

Another contested measure will be an amendment offered by Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D., and ranking member Judd Gregg, R-N.H., to establish a commission to make recommendations on deficit reduction. They have sought to force a vote on their measure by attaching it to the debt-ceiling bill, which Congress must take up.

The Conrad amendment, which is opposed by Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., is not likely to win the 60 votes needed, and Conrad is working with Democratic leaders on an alternative plan under which President Obama would create such a commission via executive order. Democratic leaders are expected to agree to that proposal if the Conrad-Gregg measure fails.

Nevertheless, Conrad Thursday on the Senate floor urged support for his amendment.

"The normal process is not going to deal with a threat of this magnitude," Conrad said. "It is going to take all of us ... working together to fashion a plan to deal with the long-term debt threat [and] also deal with the short-term need to restore jobs, to restore economic growth and to build the economy."

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