Republicans and Democrats begin budget duel universes apart (+video)
The Republican budget would slash health care and save the Pentagon; the Democratic plan would trim the Pentagon and add tax revenue. But Washington is still hopeful a deal can be done.
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Republicans led by Ryan suggested cuts at the expense of core government functions beloved by Democrats, bringing their budget into balance in a decade’s time. Senate Democrats led by Budget Committee chairwoman Patty Murray are planning to offer their own vision on Wednesday, which will offer an immediate infusion of transportation and job-training funds alongside about half as much deficit reduction as Ryan’s plan during the next decade.Skip to next paragraph
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Where Ryan found $4.6 trillion in spending cuts during the next 10 years, Murray will seek $975 billion in lower government spending. Just under half will come from domestic priorities including health care, a quarter billion in lower Pentagon expenditures, and a similar amount in reduced interest payments stemming from a lower national debt.
In addition, Senate Democrats will seek $975 billion in further deficit reduction by cutting tax expenditures – reining in the tax breaks Congress extends to various groups. Those details are being left to the Senate Finance Committee, but the bill will include special legislative instructions to allow tax reformers to expedite those changes around a likely filibuster.
The complexity of reconciling two such vastly different budgets is made more tortuous by the political factors at play. A budget vote is fraught with political danger – a key factor, many Congress-watchers say, in why Senate Democratic leaders have failed to propose a budget the past three years.
Democrats from conservative-leaning states who are facing reelection in 2014 will “have to make their own determination” on whether or not to vote for the budget, said Guy Cecil, director of the Democratic Party’s organization dedicated to electing progressive senators, during a call with reporters on Monday.
Republicans are ready to pounce on Democrats who vote for more tax hikes.
"Democratic incumbents in Louisiana, Arkansas, Alaska, North Carolina, Montana, and South Dakota are going to have a tough time explaining why their first budget in four years raises taxes, increases spending, and fails to stabilize Medicare,” said Brad Dayspring, a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, in a statement on Monday.
But in the House, Democrats are keen to hammer Republicans in moderate districts as boosters of the Ryan budget’s cuts to government programs from education to health-care and its reforms to Medicare.
From that messy political place, lawmakers are going to try to get to the compromises they’ve been unable to reach before.
“I don’t think that [divergent budget views] mean we can’t get there,” says Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D) of Maryland, the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee. “It shows the gulf we have to cross is as wide as it ever was.”