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Sequestration, Congressional budgets and public preferences

The wide ranging federal budget cuts known as sequestration have been in place for a month now and some folks definitely are starting to feel the effects.

It's possible that Congress could come up with a budget that would ameliorate some of the $85 billlion in sequester pain being felt across the country.

But don't expect it to be an easy process.

Several fiscal year 2014 budget proposals have been released so far, including the Republican version from the House (Rep. Paul Ryan's "The Path to Prosperity") and the Democratic proposal out of the Senate (Sen. Patty Murray's "Foundation for Growth").

Pew poll on spending priorities April 2013 graphThe Congressional Progressive Caucus and the House Republican Study Committee also have revealed their own financial proposals. And President Obama will let us know what he wants to do with our money when he makes his FY2014 budget public on April 10.

Politicians vs. the public: In preparation for the upcoming budget battle, the Center for Effective Government (CEG) took the results of a Pew Research Center poll on federal spending cuts conducted just before sequester took effect March 1 and compared them to the four budgets that are out.

CEG focused on defense, scientific research, transportation and infrastructure, health care, education and programs to help the poor. Those areas were picked, says CEG, because of Pew's polling data on those broad categories, the intrinsic importance of such spending, the ability to determine each budget plan's impact on them and the potential to contrast the varying budget plans.

The result? The two Democratic plans, the Senate proposal and Congressional Progressive Caucus, are closer to what Americans, per the Pew poll, say they want the federal government to support financially.

Specifically, that's Social Security, Medicare, education programs and transportation and infrastructure projects. More than 80 percent of those polled in February supported spending in these areas. Spending on programs to help the needy notched a 71 percent approval rate.

"Democrats seem more attuned to the public's views on specific areas of spending," Nick Schwellenbach, a senior fiscal policy analyst for CEG, told Mother Jones magazine. "I think the difference is due to fundamental philosophical disagreements over the role of government."

The only area where the two Republican budgets meshed with the Pew poll results was defense. Both GOP proposals called for no cuts to military spending.

The Center for Effective Government has put the four budgets' treatment of key spending areas from the Pew poll into a consolidated side-by-side chart.

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