House panel moves ahead on bud­get with hopes for tax re­form

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - BUSINESS - BY AN­DREW TAY­LOR

A key House panel on Wednes­day took a crit­i­cal first step to­ward en­abling Repub­li­cans to re­vise the tax code, kick­ing off a day­long de­bate over a GOP bud­get that slashes safety net pro­grams for the poor while re­ward­ing the mil­i­tary with a $70 bil­lion boost.

Over­haul­ing the na­tion’s tax sys­tem is a top pri­or­ity of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and Repub­li­cans. But to push a Re­pub­li­can-only ap­proach through Congress, the GOP first has to get a bud­get res­o­lu­tion through the Congress.

The bud­get plan faces op­po­si­tion from both sides, with con­ser­va­tive com­plain­ing that the cuts are in­suf­fi­cient and mod­er­ates ar­gu­ing they go too deep.

The GOP plan prom­ises to cut more than $5 tril­lion from the bud­get over the com­ing decade, though Repub­li­cans only ap­pear se­ri­ous about ac­tu­ally en­act­ing a rel­a­tively mod­est $203 bil­lion deficit cut over the same pe­riod through fil­i­buster-proof fol­low-up leg­is­la­tion.

“Both par­ties in Wash­ing­ton have failed to abide by a sim­ple prin­ci­ple that all Amer­i­can fam­i­lies and small busi­nesses do — that we must live within our means,” said Bud­get Chair­man Diane Black, R-Tenn. “Bal­anc­ing the bud­get re­quires us to make tough choices, but the con­se­quences of in­ac­tion far out­weigh any po­lit­i­cal risks we may face.”

But Democrats blasted the sweep­ing cuts in the plan. It reprises a provoca­tive pro­posal — op­posed by Trump — to turn Medi­care into a voucher-like pro­gram for fu­ture re­tirees, which ex­perts say is likely to in­crease costs for ben­e­fi­cia­ries and deny them the cov­er­age guar­an­tees of Medi­care.

“The list of up­side-down pri­or­i­ties and ir­re­spon­si­ble poli­cies in this doc­u­ment is lengthy,” said top panel Demo­crat John Yar­muth of Ken­tucky. “Democrats sup­port in­vest­ments in ed­u­ca­tion, health care, na­tional se­cu­rity, job train­ing, in­no­va­tion and in­fra­struc­ture. We sup­port pro­grams that help in­di­vid­u­als with nowhere left to turn, and a tax code that helps fam­i­lies get ahead.”

The plan ap­pears set to ease through the GOP-con­trolled panel, which is stocked with hard-core con­ser­va­tives, some of whom said the mea­sure is too loose on spend­ing. Rep. Glenn Groth­man, R-Wis., faulted the mea­sure for a $28 bil­lion in­crease above Trump’s bud­get for de­fence and for re­ject­ing most of Trump’s pro­posed $54 bil­lion cut to do­mes­tic pro­grams for next year.

The mea­sure faces an un­cer­tain fu­ture since it’s caught be­tween mod­er­ates un­happy that it would link a 10-year, $203 bil­lion pack­age of spend­ing cuts to the up­com­ing tax re­form ef­fort. On the other side are con­ser­va­tives press­ing for a larger pack­age of spend­ing cuts to ac­com­pany this fall’s tax bill.

While ex­empt­ing So­cial Se­cu­rity, vet­er­ans and de­fence from cuts, the plan pro­poses cuts across the rest of the bud­get to turn this year’s pro­jected $700 bil­lion-or-so deficit into a tiny $9 bil­lion sur­plus by 2027. It would do so by slash­ing $5.4 tril­lion over the com­ing decade, in­clud­ing al­most $500 bil­lion from Medi­care and $1.5 tril­lion from Med­i­caid and the Obama-era health law.

It also cuts far more sharply than prior GOP plans from non­health ben­e­fit pro­grams such as fed­eral em­ployee pen­sions, food stamps and tax cred­its for the work­ing poor.

AP PHOTO/J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE

In this March 10 file photo, House Bud­get Com­mit­tee Chair Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn., speaks on Capi­tol Hill in Wash­ing­ton. House Repub­li­cans this week un­veiled a bud­get that makes deep cuts in food stamps and other so­cial safety net pro­grams while boost­ing mil­i­tary spend­ing by bil­lions, a blue­print that pleases nei­ther con­ser­va­tives nor mod­er­ates.

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