Anatomy of a Budget: The Plans that Drew GOP Defections and No Dem Crossovers
WASHINGTON – Unless you consider words like “repugnant” and “dangerous” to somehow be complimentary, it’s obvious congressional Democrats are less than enamored with Republican plans for the federal budget.
In the House on Wednesday, no Democrats voted for the bill and 17 Republicans crossed the aisle on the 228-199 vote. Usually it's the fiscally conservative Dems who cross over to vote with the GOP.
After a marathon session of amendments and a 3:30 a.m. vote, the Senate passed the budget 52-46, with Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) casting "no" votes (Cruz said it didn't include "meaningful entitlement reform") and Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) skipping the vote. White House press secretary Josh Earnest issued a statement calling the budget full of "gimmicks."
The budget committees in both the House and Senate issued separate blueprints, with the GOP majority in the House seeking to balance the budget in nine years by cutting spending by $5.5 trillion while the Senate seeks to accomplish the same goal over 10 years by axing $5.1 trillion.
How they intend to go about making the cuts is not always clear but programs dealing with food stamps, college assistance and those old standbys Medicaid and Medicare are in line for massive reductions along with, of course, Obamacare. And Democrats are not amused.
“It is a plan that balances the budget in less than ten years, secures and strengthens vital programs – like Medicare – provides our military men and women with the resources they need to protect American families, and would make Washington more efficient, effective and accountable to hard-working taxpayers,’’ said Rep. Tom Price, R-GA, chairman of the House Budget Committee. “In this budget, we have embraced the innovative spirit of the American people by putting forth policies that can deliver real results and that empower individuals, families, job creators and our communities to build a stronger more secure future.”
“While the rich get richer and corporate profits soar, millions of Americans are working longer hours for lower wages,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), ranking member on the Senate Budget Committee. “Despite that, this morally repugnant Republican budget protects those on top who are doing the best while attacking the needs of the most vulnerable – working families, the elderly, the children, the sick and the poor.”
Sanders said Republicans are preparing to slash Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, education and nutrition because of “their alleged concern about the deficit.” But the majority has “no problem adding $38 billion to the deficit for increased military spending.”
Sanders’ House counterpart, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), was equally dismissive.
“Congressional Republicans have been quick to pay lip service to wanting to help working families – but this budget means that Americans who are working harder than ever will be getting even less,” Van Hollen said. “It does nothing to boost the paychecks of working Americans and makes it harder to buy a home. Students will see deep education cuts and college will be less affordable. And this budget takes away the tools that allow people to climb the ladder of opportunity.”
Van Hollen said the lower chamber’s spending plan also “makes it harder to have a secure retirement.”
“Seniors on Medicare will immediately pay more for preventive health services and those with high prescription drug costs will see prices skyrocket,” he said. “It will mean the end of the current Medicare guarantee and millions of seniors in nursing homes will be especially hurt by the irresponsible cuts to Medicaid.”
Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, asserted that any concerns are overshadowed by the need to balance the federal budget.
“This balanced budget delivers to hardworking taxpayers a more effective, efficient and accountable government, which supports Americans when it must and gets out of the way when it should,’’ he said. “By working together, we can deliver real solutions, real results and real progress and it is what the American people want and deserve. But first, we must find common ground and cooperate to get things done.”
Democratic opposition to the Republican budget proposals is wide-ranging:
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, the lower chamber’s tax-writing panel, boasted that the House plan balances the budget in eight years without raising taxes.
“Our plan would balance the budget in eight years, help create jobs, and strengthen our national security—all without raising taxes,’’ he said. “We also call for Congress to fix our tax code by making it simpler, flatter, and fairer.’’
Price said House Republicans do not ask the American people “to bail out Washington with higher taxes and more debt. We take our responsibilities seriously and genuinely address the drivers of the debt.’’
“Our budget puts a premium on accountability, efficiency and effectiveness in all areas of the federal government,’’ he said. “We streamline government functions and regulatory authority to stop taxpayer dollars from being wasted on programs that are not working.
Democrats maintain the GOP majority intends to ease the tax burden on the wealthy while shifting the onus to those who make less. The House budget, for instance, eliminates the Alternative Minimum Tax, created to make sure the nation’s richest individuals pay something to Uncle Sam each year.
House Republicans also are looking to lower rates on corporations and small businesses and ignore a White House proposal to close loopholes that permit firms to deposit billions of dollars overseas tax-free, imposing a 14 percent tax on that money, thus raising $112 billion over 10 years.
Meanwhile, the House and Senate plans both phase out the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit, which would in effect raise taxes on about 13 million families.
“At a time of massive wealth and income inequality, the Republicans apparently believe that the richest people in America need to be made even richer,” Sanders said. “It is apparently not good enough that 99 percent of all new income today is going to the top one percent. That’s apparently not enough. It is not good enough that the top one-tenth of one percent today own almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent. Clearly, in Republican eyes, the wealthy and the powerful need more help. Not only should they not be asked to pay more in taxes, the Republicans believe that we should cut tax rates for millionaires and billionaires.”
Van Hollen added that the tax cuts for the wealthy are "based on the tired and disproven theory that we can grow our economy through trickle-down economics. That theory ran aground in the real world under President Bush – the only things that went up were the incomes of the already wealthy and the deficit. Everyone else fell behind.”