Missoulian: Rehberg’s budget plan assailed by Democrats and conservatives alike

As he oversees U.S. House Republicans’ draft of the federal government’s 2012 health and education budgets, Montana Rep. Denny Rehberg finds himself hip-deep in the Washington, D.C., political fray, defending a $153 billion plan that’s drawing fire from all sides.

The proposal – unveiled last week – would torpedo virtually all funding for the Obama administration’s health reform law, including additional money for community health clinics across Montana; ax federal money for two dozen family planning clinics in the state; reduce funds for Pell grants that help low-income students pay college tuition; and scale back money for home-heating assistance.

Those and other cutbacks have prompted Democrats to say the “Rehberg budget” unduly targets women, families, students and workers.

“Now we know (Rehberg’s) priorities are cutting Pell grants and denying women access to health care, while at the same time supporting tax breaks for millionaires,” says U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., referring to Rehberg’s opposition to raising taxes on the wealthy. Rehberg is challenging Tester in the 2012 election.

Yet the budget also would increase spending in 2012 on Head Start, the preschool program for low-income kids, increase federal school aid to districts with poor children and the disabled, up job-training for veterans and hike spending on research through the National Institutes of Health.

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