WASHINGTON — The GOP-controlled House and Senate are expected to unveil budget blueprints this week, setting up a familiar ideological showdown with President Barack Obama — but also within the party — over federal spending.
The spending proposals set to be released by the House and Senate Budget Committees on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, are largely symbolic documents broadly outlining Republican goals on taxes and spending. But getting a nonbinding budget resolution passed in the House and Senate in the coming weeks is still considered an important test of party unity for the Republicans, who have promised to govern — not to obstruct — with their newly won majority.
To implement the measures included in a budget resolution, lawmakers would have to craft and pass follow-up legislation later this year that would then have to make it past the president's veto pen.
The proposals, authored by Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., and House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price, R-Ga., seek to balance the federal budget over 10 years without raising taxes. To achieve those goals, the plans are expected to include $5 trillion in cuts to domestic programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps, over the course of the next decade.
“The thinking today is, Let’s pass a budget that lays out our aspirational goals over the next decade,” Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., told The Wall Street Journal. “Let’s go through step one and know that step two is coming.”
The GOP proposal will be a marked departure from Obama’s budget, released earlier this year, which asked for billions of dollars in new spending on programs intended to bolster the middle class. Democrats have already begun to slam the GOP’s spending plans, arguing that balancing the budget by making deep cuts to domestic programs — without adding revenue — inevitably places an undue burden on vulnerable populations.
“Balancing the budget on the backs of working families who have borne the brunt of the recession makes no economic sense,” Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., tweeted last week.
Many Republican lawmakers, meanwhile, are balking over the issue of defense spending and are seeking a workaround to the across-the-board spending cuts mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011, also known as sequestration, which would slash $54 billion from the Defense Department’s budget. The 2011 budget deal set defense spending at $523 billion for the next fiscal year — than the $561 billion requested by Obama earlier this year in his budget.
Seventy House Republicans, led by Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, asked in a letter to Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, that the GOP budget resolution at least match the president’s request.
“While we understand the current fiscal restraints and the continued burden on nondefense programs as a result of the president’s sequestration, we cannot afford to jeopardize the safety and security of the homeland and our interests abroad,” the letter read.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, similarly said this week that it’s imperative that the Republican Party demonstrate its commitment to national security.
“If we're going to have a lower number than the president of the United States is proposing, we have no credibility on saying that we are committed to defending this nation — not when every service chief, every witness before our committee says it will devastate ... our ability to defend the nation,” he said. “You can't do that and claim that you care about national defense.”
A bipartisan group of lawmakers, including Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.; Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H.; and Tim Kaine, D-Va., are hoping to iron out a deal that would replace the Pentagon cuts with alternative cuts and possible new revenue, in the mold of a 2013 bipartisan budget deal that provided modest relief from sequestration cuts.
But a more conservative, hard-line faction of the Republican Party sees no problem with maintaining the sequestration cuts. Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama told The New York Times that the sequestration caps “are one of the best things that’s happened to the finances of the country.”
Al Jazeera and the Associated Press