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Price of debt-ceiling deal: GOP plan goes 'for the jugular,' Dems say

No one in Congress likes the 'sequester' – the more than $900 billion in automatic cuts written into last year's debt deal – but Democrats say that's better than the new GOP plan to avoid it.

By Staff writer / May 8, 2012

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R) of Wisconsin speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington in this file photo.

Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP/File

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Washington

Facing the prospect of a draconian “sequester” – the across-the-board cuts that were the price of last summer’s debt deal – the Republican-controlled House Budget Committee on Monday approved a plan Democrats say would “go for the jugular” of vulnerable children and seniors.

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The proposal would spread the pain of next year’s sequester over a decade to avoid $55 billion in mandated defense cuts. The full House is expected to vote on it Thursday.

The committee passed a pair of bills Monday – the first along party lines 21 to 9, the second on a 21-to-13 vote, with Rep. Justin Amash (R) of Michigan voting with the Democrats in opposition. Together, those bills would lower federal spending by $261 billion over the next decade to head off most of the $109 billion in cuts scheduled to hit in January. They do so through a blend of spending cuts in food and nutrition programs for poor and elderly Americans in the short term, while taking chunks out of President Obama’s signature health-care reform law and raising federal workers’ pension contributions in the long term.

And they left Democrats steaming, with Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D) of Texas holding up a sign dubbing the proceedings “Wreckonciliation.”

“If a political party wanted to undermine the health and economic security of millions of American families, well, this is the way to do it,” said Rep. Kathy Castor (D) of Florida.

The Thursday vote, however, will likely be the end of the proposal in Congress. Even if it passes in the House, it has no chance of clearing the Senate, and Mr. Obama would surely veto it.

But in an election year, the bill is a marker of what Republicans envision for Washington. Moreover, it’s a glimpse of what could happen after the elections, when congressional attempts to avoid next year’s sequester are expected to shift into high gear. 

Republicans, for their part, argued that the size of America’s debt makes funding such programs unsupportable.

“We try to solve everyone’s problems all the time,” said Rep. Todd Rokita (R) of Indiana. Unless they are reined in, he added, “these programs won’t be around for the neediest among us.”

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