WHAT NOW? Bi­par­ti­san plan

Con­ser­va­tives want more cuts; mod­er­ates con­cerned mea­sure goes too far

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By An­drew Tay­lor

Se­nate Repub­li­cans are scram­bling to pick up the pieces af­ter their at­tempt to re­peal and re­place the Obama-era health care law col­lapsed for a sec­ond time. They now must de­cide whether to keep work­ing on a par­ti­san bill, in­vite Democrats to the table or drop the whole thing and move on to tax re­form.

GOP plan

Se­nate Repub­li­cans can keep talk­ing among them­selves in an at­tempt to come up with an­other Repub­li­can-only plan. This strat­egy has been un­suc­cess­ful so far be­cause, with 52 mem­bers, Se­nate Repub­li­cans can af­ford to lose only two votes. Con­ser­va­tives and mod­er­ates in the House man­aged to bridge their dif­fer­ences and nar­rowly pass a bill. Since then, Pres­i­dent Donald Trump has called the House mea­sure “mean,” and Se­nate Repub­li­cans have been un­able to rally around a re­place­ment. Sen­a­tors can go back to the com­mit­tee room and work on a bi­par­ti­san ba­sis “in a way that the pub­lic feels that we are re­ally work­ing to­ward their best in­ter­ests,” Lisa Murkowski of Alaska said. “It’s where we should have started . ... And, yes, this is hard.” Repub­li­cans say they are com­mit­ted to re­peal­ing Barack Obama’s health care law, which is a non­starter for Democrats. Democrats say they are open to im­prov­ing the pro­gram, but that would fall well short of Repub­li­can cam­paign prom­ises.

Move on

A re­write of the tax code may be the best chance for Trump to score a ma­jor leg­isla­tive win this year. The mea­sure would re­quire about $200 bil­lion of cuts to ben­e­fit pro­grams and other so-called manda­tory spend­ing cou­pled with the tax plan. It also pro­poses tril­lions of dol­lars of 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.

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 GOPonly 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 Presi- dent 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 of cuts to ben­e­fit pro­grams and other so-called manda­tory spend­ing cou­pled with the tax plan.

The 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 do- mes­tic pro­grams and puts con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans at odds with Trump over cut­ting Medi­care. It also would boost mil­i­tary spend­ing sharply.

“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 Bud­get Com­mit­tee Chair­woman Diane Black, RTenn. “Now is our mo­ment to achieve real re­sults.”

Un­clear, how­ever, is whether GOP lead-

ers 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 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.

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

The House GOP plan pro­poses to turn Medi­care into a voucher-like 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 — and that’s not go­ing to change now, even with a Repub­li­can as pres­i­dent.

“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,” said Demo­cratic leader Nancy Pelosi of Cal­i­for­nia.

The plan prom­ises to bal­ance the bud­get through un­prece­dented and po­lit­i­cally un­work­able cuts across the bud­get. It calls for turn­ing this year’s pro­jected $700 bil­lion-or-so deficit into a $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 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 is a bud­get buster. It 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 sav­ing 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 be im­ple­mented.

Top Bud­get Com­mit­tee Demo­crat John Yar­muth of Ken­tucky told re­porters 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 harsh spend­ing lim­its set by a 2011 bud­get and debt agree­ment. It pads war ac­counts by $10 bil­lion. And, like Trump’s bud­get, the House GOP plan as­sumes rosy eco­nomic pro­jec­tions that would erase an ad­di­tional $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, tax re­form would es­sen­tially be deficit-neu­tral, which means cuts to tax rates would be mostly “paid for” by clos­ing var­i­ous tax breaks.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.