GOP $4.1 tril­lion bud­get passes

Key step for tax de­bate in­cludes plan for voucher-type Medi­care

The Mercury News Weekend - - NEWS - By An­drew Tay­lor

WASH­ING­TON » The House on Thurs­day passed a $ 4.1 tril­lion bud­get plan that prom­ises deep cuts to so­cial pro­grams while paving the way for Repub­li­cans to re­write the tax code later this year.

The 2018 House GOP bud­get reprises a con­tro­ver­sial plan to turn Medi­care into a voucher-like pro­gram for fu­ture re­tirees as well as the party’s ef­forts to re­peal the “Oba­macare” health law. Repub­li­cans con­trol­ling Congress have no plans to ac­tu­ally im­ple­ment those cuts while they pur­sue their tax over­haul.

That’s es­pe­cially so in the Se­nate, where the Bud­get Com­mit­tee on Thurs­day gave party-line ap­proval to a com­pan­ion plan.

In­stead, the non­bind­ing bud­get’s chief pur­pose is to set the stage for a tax over­haul plan that is the party’s top po­lit­i­cal pri­or­ity as well as a long­time pol­icy dream of key lead­ers like Speaker Paul Ryan.

The White House is­sued a state­ment say­ing the House plan is a key step to­ward “Mak­ing Amer­ica Great Again.”

The House mea­sure, passed by a near party-line vote of 219-206, calls for more than $5 tril­lion in spend­ing cuts over the next decade, promis­ing to slash Med­i­caid by about $1 tril­lion over the next 10 years, cut­ting other health care costs, and forc­ing huge cuts to do­mes­tic pro­grams funded in fu­ture years by Congress.

“It’s a bud­get that will help grow our econ­omy, and it’s a bud­get that will help rein in our debt,” said Ryan, R-Wis. “It re­forms Med­i­caid. It strength­ens Medi­care.”

But Repub­li­cans are not ac­tu­ally plan­ning to im­pose any of those cuts with fol­low-up leg­is­la­tion that would be re­quired un­der Wash­ing­ton’s Byzan­tine bud­get rules. In­stead, those GOP pro­pos­als for spend­ing cuts are lim­ited to non­bind­ing prom­ises, and even a to­ken 10-year, $200 bil­lion spend­ing cut pack­age de­manded by tea party House Repub­li­cans ap­pears likely to be scrapped in up­com­ing talks with the Se­nate.

In­stead, the mo­ti­vat­ing force be­hind the bud­get mea­sures is the Repub­li­cans’ party-defin­ing drive to cut cor­po­rate and in­di­vid­ual tax rates and rid the tax code of loop­holes. They prom­ise this tax “re­form” mea­sure will put the econ­omy in over­drive, driv­ing eco­nomic growth to the 3 per­cent range, and adding a surge of new tax rev­enues.

“In or­der to pay for these huge tax breaks for mil­lion­aires and bil­lion­aires, this Repub­li­can bud­get makes sav­age cuts to the life and death pro­grams that mean so much to or­di­nary Amer­i­cans,” said Sen. Bernie San­ders, I-Vt.

Pass­ing the mea­sure in theHouse and Se­nate­would pro­vide key pro­ce­dural help for the taxmea­sure be­cause it sets the stage for fol­lowon leg­is­la­tion that can’t be fil­i­bus­tered by Se­nate Democrats. Repub­li­cans used the same so- called rec­on­cil­i­a­tion pro­ce­dure in their failed at­tempt to kill “Oba­macare,” in­clud­ing its tax sur­charges on wealthy peo­ple.

Eigh­teen Repub­li­cans op­posed the mea­sure, in­clud­ing sev­eral from high-tax states like New York and New Jersey who are con­cerned that the up­com­ing tax ef­fort­would re­peal state and lo­cal tax de­duc­tions.

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