December 19, 2014

House To Vote on Budget Plans

  • The federal budget is an expression of our country's values. Where we choose to spend and at what levels, how and who we tax, and the borrowing we...

House lawmakers this week are considering the 2013 budget proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) as well as alternatives that were put forth yesterday by House Democrats, the Republican Study Committee, the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Progressive Caucus and others.

The House Budget Committee last week narrowly approved the Ryan plan, which calls for significant changes in Medicare, the elimination of many tax breaks and lower spending on annually approved discretionary programs than under last year’s Budget Control Act.

The full House is expected to take action on the plan later this week. Ryan, chairman of the budget committee, unveiled the plan last week. On Wednesday it won that committee’s approval on a 19-18 vote, with Democrats and two Republicans in opposition.

The Ryan plan has the backing of the Republican leadership in the House. In many ways it resembles the budget that Ryan proposed and the House approved last year, but there are some significant differences as well.

Democrats have objected to various parts of the Ryan budget and complained that its lower spending cap violated a deal that had been negotiated last year. House Democrats said their alternative, based largely on President Obama’s proposed budget, takes “a balanced approach to meeting the nation’s fiscal challenges” while protecting the social safety net and providing tax relief for working families.

Last week the Concord Coalition praised Ryan for including plans to rein in health care spending, seeking tax simplification and improving his proposed premium support system for Medicare in ways that could draw more bipartisan support.

But Concord has criticized the Ryan budget for deficit reduction numbers that depend on “a broad array of policy choices that are not spelled out and seem unrealistic.” The budget fails to specify what tax breaks would end; given the proposed tax 10 percent and 25 percent tax brackets, it is likely that almost all tax expenditures would have to be eliminated.

Unlike the recommendations of the President’s bipartisan fiscal commission, the Ryan plan fails to devote any of the revenue from base-broadening reforms to deficit reduction. The plan has also created uncertainty about what would happen to automatic cuts in domestic and defense spending that will start taking effect next January under current law.