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House Republican leaders give in to conservatives on spending cuts

By Dana Bash and Deirdre Walsh, CNN
  • House Republican leaders are now looking for $100 billion in spending cuts
  • GOP leaders promised to cut $100 billion in the campaign, but scaled it back
  • The leaders were initially scheduled to release their proposed cuts on Thursday
  • Democrats have criticized the scale and target of the proposed cuts

(CNN) -- Facing a rebellion from conservatives, House Republican leaders said Thursday they will find $100 billion in spending cuts for the remainder of the current fiscal year, as they had promised during the midterm campaign.

"We have determined that the (continuing resolution) can and will reach a total of $100 billion in cuts compared to the president's request immediately -- fully meeting the goal outlined in the Republican 'Pledge to America' in one fell swoop," House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Kentucky, said in a statement.

A continuing resolution is a bill that funds the government until an annual budget is passed, in this case through the rest of the fiscal year.

Just a day earlier, Rogers was close to finalizing a spending bill that fell far short of $100 billion in cuts.

But House GOP leaders have been under intense pressure from fellow conservatives, including many GOP freshmen whose election delivered the new Republican majority, to slash spending by $100 billion this year.

On Wednesday night, a senior House GOP aide told CNN Republican leaders were working on finding additional cuts.

GOP sources told CNN that during Wednesday's meeting of all House Republicans, several GOP freshmen pressed leaders to meet the full spending cut pledge.

The scramble to now meet that pledge has delayed the release of the House Republican spending bill, which was initially planned for Thursday. House GOP leaders intend to vote next week on the bill, which would keep the government running through the rest of this year. The current spending bill expires March 4.

Asked about House Republicans plans to slash billions in federal programs, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, immediately pointed out that the internal battle among Republicans is complicating the debate on Capitol Hill over spending.

"I think what they are finding out is that it's easier to talk about cutting $100 billion than it is to actually do it," she said.

The Democratic leader criticized the size of the proposed Republican cuts, saying, "A hundred billion really cuts to the heart of who we are as a country." She asked whether the GOP is willing to put the cost of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the Pentagon budget on the table as they come up with a list of spending reductions.

In a call with reporters, Senate Democratic leaders said they were open to cuts but want to be more selective in their approach than the Republicans.

"The question is not whether to make cuts," said Senator Chuck Schumer, D-New York. "The question is what should be cut. And we need to invest in the programs that help us grow and cut what doesn't.

"It's not the number that's the problem, but it's the way they'll have to slash to meet the number: cops that make our streets safer, food inspectors that make our food safer ... financial aid," Schumer said.

Last week House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, announced cuts he is recommending for the rest of the year that would add up to $35 billion when compared to spending levels currently funding the government. Ryan's proposed cuts would be $58 billion compared to spending recommended by President Barack Obama for 2011.

Either way those cuts fall far short of the $100 billion this year that House Republicans explicitly vowed to slash in their so-called Pledge to America. Before ceding to conservative demands, House Republicans had argued there was no need to meet that goal, since the fiscal year is almost halfway over now.

CNN's Ted Barrett contributed to this report