Daily Dispatches

House approves Republican budget plan

Congress

UPDATE: The House approved a $3.5 trillion budget submitted by Republicans 228-191 Thursday.

UPDATE: The House rejected a budget submitted by conservatives 285-136 Thursday and moved toward approval of a plan written by Republican leaders.

OUR EARLIER REPORT: Republicans are ready to present to the House a $3.5 trillion budget; their focus: sharper deficit reduction, lowering income tax rates, erasing certain tax breaks, and government downsizing.

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The blueprint by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., was headed for all but certain House passage Thursday, mostly along party lines. It faces a demise that is just as sure in the Democratic-run Senate, which plans to ignore it, but the battle remains significant because of the clarity with which it contrasts the two parties' budgetary visions for voters.

"They're choosing the next election over the next generation," Ryan said, deriding Democrats' plans as far too timid. He added, "If we don't tackle these fiscal problems soon, they're going to tackle us as a country."

In a pair of preliminary votes expected Thursday, conservatives were offering their own proposal with deeper spending cuts and far faster deficit-reduction than the GOP plan, claiming to balance the budget in just five years. Democrats were pushing a measure featuring pumped-up spending for education and new tax credits for companies creating jobs and raising wages, while claiming savings from winding down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, government waste, and reductions in farm payments.

Both were destined to be defeated.

The House late Wednesday, on a 382-38 vote, shot down a deficit-cutting plan by moderates of both parties that mingled tax increases with spending cuts.

The House also voted 414-0 Wednesday to reject President Obama's budget, with Democrats accusing the GOP of forcing the vote to embarrass them.

Congress' budget is a nonbinding road map that suggests tax and spending changes that lawmakers should make in separate, later legislation.

The House GOP budget would cut spending by $5.3 trillion more over the next decade than Obama's would-out of more than $40 trillion that would still be spent during that period. It also would cut taxes by $2 trillion more than the president over that time, leaving Republicans seeking about $3.3 trillion in deeper deficit reduction than Obama.

Drawing the most political heat was Ryan's plan for Medicare, the $500 billion-a-year health insurance program for older Americans that all agree is growing so fast that its future financing is shaky. Both parties know that seniors vote in high numbers and care passionately about the program.

Republicans would leave the plan alone for retirees and those near retirement, letting the government continue paying much of their doctors' and hospital bills.

For younger people, Medicare would be reshaped into a voucher-like system in which the government would subsidize people's healthcare costs, which Republicans say would drive down federal costs by giving seniors a menu of options that would compete with each other. Democrats say government payments won't keep up with the rapid inflation of medical costs, leaving many beneficiaries struggling to afford the care they need.

"It ends the Medicare guarantee," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said of Ryan's budget.

"This plan doesn't end the Medicare guarantee," said Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz. "Arithmetic does. Unless we change something, unless we put it on a solvent footing, the Medicare guarantee is gone."

Republicans would turn Medicaid, the nearly $300 billion-a-year federal-state health insurance program for the poor, into a grant that states could use as they wish. They also would trim its growth by $800 billion over the next decade.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Whitney Williams
Whitney Williams

Whitney happily serves WORLD as web editorial assistant. When she's not working from her home office in Texas, she's probably fishing or hunting with her husband.

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