Reid opposes possible cuts to program giving assistance to poor for utility bills

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Harry Reid said Friday he will resist proposed deep cuts in the federal program that helps poor people pay utility bills.

An early leak of President Barack Obama's budget to be unveiled Monday indicated one of the largest cuts will be to the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP.

The Obama budget will seek to cut $2.5 billion from the 2009 authorized level of $5.1 billion, according to published reports. The president's allies are scratching their heads as Democrats, particularly those in cold-weather states, have been perennial defenders of the program.

Reid said he is not in favor of cutting LIHEAP. Nevada received $18 million in fiscal 2010, much of which went to help low income Southern Nevadans pay for air conditioning.

"The president's suggestion on LIHEAP is something we will take a look at but I am not going to rush to the fore there and say I accept cutting $3 billion from LIHEAP," Reid said. "I think we have done some very good things for people who are the poorest of the poor."

Reid, the Senate majority leader, said that a partial freeze on domestic spending Obama plans to propose will allow Congress to adjust individual programs up or down as long as the bottom line stays constant.

"If a program works we can keep it the way it is, or add to it," Reid said. "If it doesn't work, get rid of it."