And the Budget Winner Is... Paul Ryan
The Republican-majority House took a stab at a variety of spending bills, but Budget Chairman Paul Ryan's $3.53 trillion "Path to Prosperity" came out on top of the heap today.
Ryan's budget, which cuts spending $5 trillion over the next decade compared to President Obama's plan, passed 228-191 with 10 Republicans voting "no." Democrats were united in opposing "Prosperity."
"Government has never come up with the magic formula to micromanage America," Ryan said on the House floor. "Let alone lower costs and improve quality. It’s time to put 50 million seniors, not 15 bureaucrats in charge of their own health care decisions. Forcing insurance companies to compete, that’s the only way to guarantee quality affordable health care for seniors that lasts for generations. That’s the answer to what comes next."
The ten GOP defectors were Reps. Justin Amash (Mich.), Joe Barton (Texas), John Duncan Jr. (Tenn.), Chris Gibson (N.Y.), Tim Huelskamp (Kan.), Walter Jones (N.C.), David McKinley (W.Va.), Todd Platts (Pa.), Denny Rehberg (Mont.) and Ed Whitfield (Ky.).
The Republican Study Committee plan from House conservatives that was leaner than the Ryan plan -- "Cut, Cap and Balance" -- failed, but received a good chunk of rightward support.
"Thank you to the 135 colleagues who voted with me to return spending to 2008 levels and balance the budget in 5 years," RSC Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) said. "Your kids will thank you for trying to offer them a better future.”
Out of the 285 "no" votes, 104 were Republicans.
Barton was one of the "yes" votes, opting for the RSC's five-year balancing plan over Ryan's longer-term proposal.
“We are playing a little bit of a shell game. Each year we keep putting off the tough decisions – cutting a little less than we said we would, vowing to do it in the future," he said. "The cuts never seem to happen and now the national debt is more than $15 trillion and climbing fast. It is time to stop kicking the can down the road and display some political courage."
The Democratic counter to Ryan's plan, offered by Budget Committee Ranking Member Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), promised to stand "in stark contrast" to the "Path to Prosperity," Van Hollen said. It came without specifics to generate $1 trillion in new tax revenue and offered no timeframe for a balanced budget.
It failed 163-262.
The Congressional Progressive Caucus "Budget for All," which had a $2.9 trillion spending hike supported by $6.8 trillion in new taxes over the next decade, got just 78 "yes" votes -- one more than last year's proposal.
“Anyone who thinks trillions of dollars in cuts and more corporate giveaways are what the country needs has been sleeping through the last two years,” Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) said. “This budget responds to what the people need, what the economy requires and what the Progressive Caucus believes in."
CPC co-chairmen Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) accused Republicans of a "scheme" to "sweep the competition under the rug" by moving debate on the measure to Wednesday night.
The pair called the move “an admission that our budget creates too many jobs and saves too many popular government programs to be discussed when the public is watching.”
The Congressional Black Caucus also had a budget on the floor, which included an $841 billion financial speculation tax and increasing individual Pell grants $1,000 each over the president's budget. The CBC claimed their budget would reduce the deficit an additional $769 billion over the Republicans' plan over the next decade.
It failed with 107 votes to 314 members in opposition.
CBC Chairman Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), who called last fall's debt-ceiling deal a "sugar-coated Satan sandwich," slammed Ryan's budget without demonic food analogies.
"Budgets should be a window into the moral compass of our conscience as a nation—and our compass is evidently off," Cleaver said. "The American people do not deserve this. …Hardworking American families may not be the priority of the Republican leadership, but they are the priority of the ‘Conscience of the Congress’: the Congressional Black Caucus."
Still, the House liberals got more votes than poor Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson.
A budget proposal built off the recommendations of President Obama's bipartisan deficit-reduction commission choked on 38 "yes" votes Wednesday night, with 382 members voting "no."
Sponsors Steven LaTourette (R-Ohio) and Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) touted it as the only truly bipartisan budget plan on the menu.
“The bipartisan Simpson-Bowles plan had been vetted, but never tested," said Blue Dog Cooper. "Powerful special interests and the leaders of both parties opposed it tonight, but 38 brave souls were willing to do the right thing for the country. When we eventually solve our nation’s deficit problem, the final blueprint will look like this.”
Still, the entire hodgepodge of budget proposals all fared better than President Obama's spending plan, which got a doughnut hole's worth of votes as 414 members united against it.
It was because Republican Mick Mulvaney (S.C.) introduced Obama's budget as an amendment to the GOP spending plan, with Democrats brushing off the move as a gimmick.
“It’s not a gimmick – unless what the president sent us is the same,” Mulvaney said. “We are voting on the president’s budget. I would encourage the Democrats to embrace this landmark Democrat document and support it.”
White House spokesman Jay Carney was not asked about the lonely lack of votes at today's press briefing, but the administration did issue a statement from the press secretary on Ryan's budget.
"Today’s vote stands as another example of the Republican establishment grasping onto the same failed economic policies that stacked the deck against the middle class and created the worst financial crisis in decades. …Any serious attempt at tackling our deficits must be balanced, fair and demand shared responsibility. The Ryan Republican budget clearly fails that test."
Even though the victorious Ryan plan now heads to a Senate not known for passing budgets, Democrats were still licking their wounds over the predictable vote.
"In light of the fact that the Super Committee failed to find $1.2 trillion in cuts or revenues, it is unlikely that anybody will figure how to fill this $5 trillion hole in the Republican Budget," said Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.). "…Last night, the House of Representatives considered several alternative budgets to the Republican Budget, including one offered by the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) of which I was the primary author."
"The Republican Budget chose millionaires," he said. "We chose Medicare."