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House OKs cut in fighter jet engine funds

By Jennifer Liberto, senior writer, and Deirdre Walsh, CNN producer

WASHINGTON(CNNMoney) -- House Republicans continued their drive Wednesday to slash $60 billion from the current year's budget, with some of the deepest cuts targeted at education and environmental regulation.

First up was a controversial amendment to cut to strip $450 million slated to build a new engine for the F-35 fighter jet, which passed 233-198, with bipartisan support.

That cut, in particular, demonstrates the strong sentiment in both parties to crack down on spending that appears excessive, transcending political priority lists. GOP leaders, including Speaker John Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, wanted to keep that engine funded; opponents included Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

Other deep cuts aim to slash funding for early childhood development programs that help low-income children, special education programs at public schools and family planning programs.

House Republicans have vowed to cull $60 billion from the fiscal 2011 budget.

A day after House Speaker John Boehner acknowledged that cuts could cost some federal jobs, adding, "so be it. We're broke," Democrats wasted no time accusing Republicans of killing jobs and hurting the economy.

They're citing a report by the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute, which gets funding from labor unions, that $60 billion in cuts would result in hundreds of thousands of jobs lost in both the public and private sectors.

"These cuts recklessly damage programs," said House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer. "We are talking about cutting tomorrow's jobs."

Although the 2011 budget up for debate only covers the next seven months, March through September, the clock is ticking to pass something soon. The current stop-gap measure that's keeping the lights on at federal agencies expires March 4.

The pressure is on Republican lawmakers to outdo each other when it comes to cutting the budget. The GOP took control of the House after last fall's election riding a wave of public discontent of the mounting deficit and government spending.

They've also pledged to allow any lawmaker to offer any suggestion for cuts. There are nearly 600 amendments on the table. However not all will be taken up, since many are duplicative and others that will get blocked, like a Democratic proposal to restore $150 million for safety on the DC Metro system, which made headlines in 2009 when a collision killed nine people.

Cuts to be discussed target many White House priorities, such as Treasury's mortgage modification program for homeowners, as well as the Environmental Protection Agency's efforts to cut greenhouse gases.

If lawmakers fail to pass a budget, or at least another stop-gap measure, by March 4, the federal government could be shut down like it was during the GOP showdown with the Clinton administration in 1995.

The House was expected to pass the budget by Thursday, but the timing is uncertain as the process has gone longer than expected. The Senate isn't expected to take up the measure for a few more weeks. Then the chambers will likely have to negotiate the differences and come to a compromise.

The White House has vowed to veto the budget if the deep cuts that House Republican want survive, saying the president can't support a bill that "undermines critical priorities or national security." To top of page

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