WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans pushed an election-year, $3.5 trillion budget through the House on Thursday that relies on biting spending cuts and a revamping of Medicare to curb massive federal deficits.
House passage came on a near party-line, 228-191 vote.
To become law, the budget bill would have to get through the Senate, which is controlled by the Democrats, and signed into law by President Obama, who opposes the bill.
The GOP plan features sharper deficit reduction and starkly less government than Democrats want. It would block Obama’s proposal to boost taxes on the wealthy and would instead lower income tax rates while erasing many unspecified tax breaks. Obama’s budget would raise taxes on families making above $250,000 and on oil and gas companies, add funds for roads and schools and cull modest savings from domestic programs.
“We think America is on the wrong track,” said House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., the spending plan’s chief author. “We think the president is bringing us to a debt crisis and a welfare state in decline.”
Democrats accused the GOP of writing a plan that would end the age-old guarantee that Medicare would cover most of seniors’ medical bills and would slash transportation, research and other programs far too deeply, even as the measure would protect the rich from Obama’s proposed tax hikes.
“The more people know about that budget, the more people know it hurts them in their lives,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
Congress’ budget is a nonbinding road map that suggests tax and spending changes lawmakers should make in separate, later legislation. A House-Senate stalemate over the fiscal blueprint would have scant practical impact as Congress tackles what little budget work it is expected to address before the November elections.
Final approval in the House came after lawmakers swatted down a slew of alternatives over the past two days, including a package by the most conservative Republicans that featured even sharper spending cuts and deeper deficit reduction than Ryan’s leadership-backed plan. The conservative plan claimed to turn this year’s $1.2 trillion federal deficit into a balanced budget in five years. Most analysts consider that unachievable because few lawmakers would vote for the package’s proposed cuts.
None of the competing budgets by Ryan, Obama or House Democrats claim to balance the budget within the next decade.
Underlining the growing influence of tea party and other conservative Republicans, a clear majority of GOP lawmakers voted for the conservatives’ plan. It was defeated because virtually every Democrat voted against it.
Republicans forced a vote on Obama’s budget and it was rejected 414-0, with Democrats worried that a “yes” vote would provide fodder for campaign ads accusing them of backing anything voters might dislike in the president’s plan.