House GOP un­veils bud­get plan

It would cut so­cial ben­e­fits, lay ground for tax code re­vamp

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NEWS - In­for­ma­tion for this ar­ti­cle was con­trib­uted by An­drew Tay­lor of The As­so­ci­ated Press; by Alan Rappeport of The New York Times; and by Mike DeBo­nis of The Wash­ing­ton Post.

WASH­ING­TON — De­spite op­po­si­tion from Repub­li­can mod­er­ates and con­ser­va­tives, House lead­ers are press­ing ahead with a bud­get plan whose suc­cess is crit­i­cal to the party’s hopes to de­liver on one of Pres­i­dent Donald Trump’s top pri­or­i­ties: a GOP-only ef­fort to over­haul the tax code.

The im­por­tance of the mea­sure has been mag­ni­fied by the cra­ter­ing in the Se­nate of the Trump-backed ef­fort to re­peal Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s health care law, leav­ing a re­write of the tax code as the best chance for Trump to score a ma­jor leg­isla­tive win this year. The mea­sure would re­quire about $200 bil­lion worth of cuts to ben­e­fit pro­grams and other so-called manda­tory spend­ing cou­pled with the tax plan.

The House bud­get plan un­veiled Tues­day is cru­cial be­cause its pas­sage would pave the way to pass a tax over­haul this fall without the fear of a fil­i­buster by Se­nate Democrats.

But it also pro­poses tril­lions of dol­lars in cuts to the so­cial safety net and other do­mes­tic pro­grams and puts con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans at odds with Trump over cut­ting Medi­care. It also would sharply boost mil­i­tary spend­ing.

“In past years, the bud­get has only been a vi­sion. But now, with the Repub­li­can Congress and a Repub­li­can White House, this bud­get is a plan for ac­tion,” said House Bud­get Com­mit­tee Chair­man Diane Black, R-Tenn. “Now is our mo­ment to achieve real re­sults.”

Mick Mul­vaney, White House bud­get di­rec­tor, praised the outline.

“The ad­min­is­tra­tion urges the House Bud­get Com­mit­tee, the full House and the Se­nate to move for­ward on a pro-growth bud­get res­o­lu­tion that sup­ports the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s goals of a strong na­tional de­fense, fis­cal re­spon­si­bil­ity and sus­tained eco­nomic growth,” Mul­vaney said.

Un cl e a r, how­ever, is whether GOP lead­ers can get the bud­get mea­sure through the House. Con­ser­va­tives want a larger pack­age of spend­ing cuts to ac­com­pany this fall’s tax over­haul bill, while mod­er­ates are con­cerned that cuts to pro­grams such as food stamps could go too far.

“I just think that if you’re deal­ing with too many manda­tory cuts while you’re deal­ing with tax re­form you make tax re­form that much harder to en­act,” said Rep. Char­lie Dent, R-Pa.

Mem­bers of the hard-right House Free­dom Cau­cus, mean­while, have been push­ing for more ag­gres­sive longterm spend­ing cuts in rec­on­cil­i­a­tion. The group’s leader, Rep. Mark Mead­ows, R-N.C., told re­porters last week that the num­bers in the draft bud­get could not pass the House, call­ing the pro­posed $203 bil­lion in manda­tory spend­ing cuts over the com­ing decade a rel­a­tive pit­tance in a fed­eral bud­get that al­ready ap­proaches $4 tril­lion in yearly spend­ing.

Con­ser­va­tives are also push­ing House GOP lead­ers for more speci­ficity on the tax over­haul bill — in par­tic­u­lar, an as­sur­ance that a pro­posal to tax im­ported goods known as border ad­just­ment will not be in­cluded.

Black an­nounced a com­mit­tee vote for to­day, but was less con­fi­dent of a vote by the en­tire House next week; a de­lay, he said, seems likely be­cause of the on­go­ing quar­rel be­tween the GOP’s fac­tions.

The House GOP plan pro­poses turn­ing Medi­care into a voucher­like pro­gram in which fu­ture re­tirees would re­ceive a fixed ben­e­fit to pur­chase health in­surance on the open mar­ket. Repub­li­cans have pro­posed the idea each year since tak­ing back the House in 2011, but they’ve never tried to im­ple­ment it.

“Repub­li­cans would de­stroy the Medi­care guar­an­tee for our se­niors and in­flict bone-deep cuts to Med­i­caid that would dev­as­tate veter­ans, se­niors with long-term care needs, and ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties,” coun­tered Demo­cratic leader Nancy Pelosi of Cal­i­for­nia.

The plan prom­ises to bal­ance the bud­get through deep and wide-rang­ing cuts. It calls for turn­ing this year’s pro­jected $700 bil­lion deficit into a $9 bil­lion sur­plus by 2027. It would do so by slash­ing $5.4 tril­lion in spend­ing over the com­ing decade, in­clud­ing al­most $500 bil­lion from Medi­care and $1.5 tril­lion from Med­i­caid and the Obama-era health law, along with sweep­ing cuts to ben­e­fits such as fed­eral em­ployee pen­sions, food stamps and tax cred­its for the work­ing poor.

But in the im­me­di­ate fu­ture, the GOP mea­sure would add al­most $ 30 bil­lion to Trump’s $668 bil­lion re­quest for na­tional de­fense. The GOP bud­get plan would cut non-de­fense agen­cies by $5 bil­lion. And of the more than $4 tril­lion in promised sav­ings from manda­tory pro­grams such as Medi­care and Med­i­caid, the plan as­sumes just $203 bil­lion would ac­tu­ally pass this year.

Democrats fo­cused their fire on the plan’s sweep­ing prom­ises to cut from al­most ev­ery cor­ner of the bud­get other than So­cial Se­cu­rity, de­fense and veter­ans pro­grams. At the same time, they have lit­tle fear those cuts would ac­tu­ally be im­ple­mented.

Top Bud­get Com­mit­tee Demo­crat John Yar­muth of Ken­tucky told re­porters that the GOP “uti­lizes a lot of gim­micks and vague­ness to reach some sem­blance of the­o­ret­i­cal bal­ance and also hides a lot of the dra­co­nian cuts [that] would be in­flicted on the Amer­i­can peo­ple.”

All told, the GOP plan would spend about $67 bil­lion more in the up­com­ing an­nual ap­pro­pri­a­tions bills than would be al­lowed un­der spend­ing lim­its set by a 2011 bud­get and debt agree­ment. It raises war ac­counts by $10 bil­lion. And, like Trump’s bud­get, the House GOP plan as­sumes rosy eco­nomic pro­jec­tions that would erase an­other $1.5 tril­lion from the deficit over 10 years.

The bud­get res­o­lu­tion is non­bind­ing. It would al­low Repub­li­cans con­trol­ling Congress to pass fol­low-up leg­is­la­tion through the Se­nate without the threat of a fil­i­buster by Democrats. GOP lead­ers and the White House plan to use that mea­sure to re­write the tax code.

As pro­posed by House lead­ers, the tax over­haul would be deficit- neu­tral, which means cuts to tax rates would be mostly com­pen­sated by clos­ing var­i­ous tax breaks such as the de­duc­tion for state and lo­cal taxes. How­ever, the GOP plan would de­vote $300 bil­lion claimed from eco­nomic growth to the tax over­haul ef­fort.

But con­ser­va­tives are in­sist­ing on adding cuts to so­called manda­tory pro­grams, which make up more than two-thirds of the fed­eral bud­get and ba­si­cally run on au­topi­lot.


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