Page last updated at 17:42 GMT, Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Obama to announce partial government spending freeze

Barack Obama speaking at the White House - 25 January 2010
Mr Obama faces mounting criticism for the amount of government spending

US President Barack Obama is to announce a three-year partial spending freeze aimed at reducing the country's $1.4tn (£860bn) budget deficit.

His first State of the Union address, on Wednesday, will reveal the details.

Officials have told US media that defence, some healthcare programmes and the massive economic stimulus package will be unaffected.

Critics said the planned savings, expected to cut no more than $15bn off next year's budget, were insufficient.

But officials said the plan would result in savings of about $250bn during the next 10 years.

The spending freeze covers many domestic programmes and departments to which Congress allocates budgets each year, including agriculture, transportation and education and national parks.

Security and defence spending, foreign aid, social security and spending on healthcare for the poor and retired would be exempt.

This is like announcing you're going on a diet after winning a pie-eating contest
Michael Steel
Spokesman for House Minority Leader John Boehner

Mr Obama is facing mounting criticism for the amount of government spending and growing budget deficits.

The 2009 fiscal year saw a record $1.4tn shortfall. The 2010 deficit is expected to reach $1.35tn, according to US Congress estimates.

The freeze could make the president rein in his ambitious reform agenda, especially with regards to education and the environment.

But one administration official said it was like a family in tough times deciding on its budget.

"That's the decision-making process the president and the economic team went through," Associated Press quoted the unnamed official as saying.

"It's the very same process American families have gone through for the past several years."

Republicans say the cuts are insufficient.

"Given Washington Democrats' unprecedented spending binge, this is like announcing you're going on a diet after winning a pie-eating contest," said Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Minority Leader John Boehner.

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