Feb. 4, 2011 -- As Congress prepares to make deep spending cuts, an army of lobbyists is gearing up to fight back.
In an e-mail obtained by ABC News, a top staffer for the key Senate Appropriations subcommittee called for a meeting of lobbyists and interest groups that would be affected by expected cuts to the Labor and Heath and Human Services budget. The Jan. 24 meeting was attended by approximately 400 people, sources told ABC, and served as a "call to arms" for those determined to fight Republican budget cuts.
"One thing everyone should be able to agree on now is that a rising tide lifts all boats, and that a higher [Labor, Health & Human Services] allocation improves the chances for every stakeholder group to receive more funding," the committee staffer for Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, wrote in an e-mail inviting people to the meeting.
The meeting is in contrast to the rampant calls all over Capitol Hill to cut federal spending. For instance, a recent proposal from Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., called for an 83 percent cut in funding for the Department of Education.
If education is subjected to far greater cuts than defense, for example, then groups in that sector have cause for concern. Cue the lobbying effort.
"Everyone who was there was desperately concerned and very appreciative of being in a room seeing so many people like them who are also concerned," said a source who attended the meeting.
"We obviously have to cut the budget deficit and address the debt problem, but are we going to do that on the backs of the poor, the unemployed, those without child care, et cetera? That's the kind of thing that could halt the economic recovery in its tracks."
Another source familiar with the meeting said Democrats used the meeting as "an attack on House Republicans."
"They said these evil House Republicans are here and they're going to kill all these programs that support little kids, senior citizens, and health care," the source said. "They're trying to instill the fear of God that Republicans are basically going to blow up all these programs, kill these programs, defund them."
"It seemed to me like they are trying to build momentum to push the Republicans back on their promises on funding levels and I think – to their credit – they were reaching out to a vast number of organizations to build a coalition of people who are willing to take action against whatever may come out of the House."
The funding fight looks set to take center stage in the coming weeks. President Obama is planning to submit his budget proposal for fiscal year 2012 on Feb. 14.