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Countdown on for budget cuts

capitol_building.top.jpg By Charles Riley, staff reporter


NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- The long march toward a budget for the current fiscal year is finally over. The deal has been struck. Everyone can pack up and head over the hill for the next fiscal fight.

Not so fast.

Early Tuesday morning -- in the dead of night -- the House Appropriations Committee released the bill, along with details on which programs were on the chopping block.

The measure must pass both houses of Congress and be signed by Friday midnight.

But some things remain up in the air. Part of the reason: Lawmakers who were not directly involved in negotiations are just now seeing the specifics. Reactions have been ... mixed.

A key conservative leader in the House, Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, said he will vote against the bill. The reason? Not enough cuts.

Some lawmakers haven't made up their minds, including the No. 2 Democrat in the House.

House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer told reporters he was still reviewing the legislation with his staff, and hadn't decided how he would vote. And that's the guy in charge of figuring out how many Democrats will vote for the bill.

There are reasons for this. The legislation is an awful lot to take in. The bill runs 459 pages. Continuing resolutions are usually much shorter. (See all the cuts)

"There is just so much stuff to understand, and good, basic information is so important and just not available," said Craig Jennings, the director of federal fiscal policy at OMB Watch, a group that monitors federal spending.

The information that is available is bound to confuse.

Republican talking points have touted that the bill strips funding for four administration "czars" including those who work on urban affairs, climate change, health care and autos.

But nobody even holds those jobs.

Plus, there was confusion on Capitol Hill about some of the cuts. A summary released by the House Appropriations Committee in the wee hours of the morning said that $1 billion would be cut from programs that help prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

In fact, staffers confirm to CNN that was in error and that there would be no reduction directed specifically to those programs.

"It's so hard to get good simple information on what is getting cut and what's not," Jennings said. "It's hindering the process."

In the recent past, when Republicans pushed through $12 billion in spending reductions, the savings came exclusively from non-security discretionary spending.

This time, cuts are spread across discretionary and mandatory budget accounts and rescind unspent money or eliminate rainy-day funds. That leaves the true economic impact hard to gauge.

With past budget proposals, outside economists have weighed in with broad estimates of economic impact. No such reports have emerged as of yet.

With the House expected to vote on Thursday, and the Senate on Friday, those finer points might not be available until after the bill becomes law.

--CNN's Lisa Desjardins, Alan Silverleib and Deirdre Walsh contributed to this report. To top of page

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