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2chambers
Posted at 04:00 PM ET, 05/03/2012

House Democrats plan to pounce again on GOP budget


Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), ranking member on the House Budget Committee. (Alex Brandon - AP)

The Republican plan to reconcile the budget and set new federal spending levels unfairly targets the poor, senior citizens and health-care and financial reform programs established by the Obama administration, according to a new memo outlining Democratic concerns with the proposal.

House Democrats plan to attack the spending plan next week as the GOP-controlled House votes on a budget reconciliation package that includes cuts to replace automatic, across-the-board reductions set to begin in January as part of the Budget Control Act. The BCA raised the debt ceiling, cut $1 trillion in federal spending and authorized another $1.2 trillion in cuts over the next decade, with roughly half of the money coming from defense spending.

Republicans — and some Democrats — believe the cuts would decimate the nation’s military and are eagerly seeking alternative spending proposals. Both sides anticipate that lawmakers will agree to cancel the automatic cuts before January, likely during a lame-duck session later this year.

The GOP, hoping to draw a line in the sand, last month ordered six committees to identify $261 billion in savings by cutting dozens of federal spending programs and benefits. The House Budget Committee is scheduled to mark up the bill Monday, and aides expect the full House to vote on the plan later next week.

The proposed cuts “are neither the right nor only ways to reduce the deficit,” according to the Democratic memo. “In fact, Democrats have proposed to achieve greater deficit reduction from targeted, balanced policy choices, rather than the slash-and-burn approach taken by an across-the-board sequester or the deep cuts in spending taken by the Republican reconciliation proposals.”

“This unbalanced approach to deficit reduction – focused only on cutting investments rather than also closing tax loopholes – is the wrong choice for America,” the Democratic memo states.

Responding to similar criticism in the past, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has said that his spending plan presents Americans with a serious attempt to address the nation’s growing debt. He also regularly faults Senate Democrats to even draft a budget plan in recent years.

2chambers obtained the Democratic memo from staffers in advance of its release.

Aides said that Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), the ranking Democrat on the budget panel, and his colleagues plan to use the themes and data presented in the document as the basis of a fresh attempt next week to assail the Republican spending plan.

“This report makes clear that the Republican budget makes the wrong choices for America. Next week Democrats will continue to draw a strong contrast between the lopsided Republican plan to protect tax breaks for powerful special interests at the expense of the rest of America, and the Democratic plan that takes a balanced approach to deficit reduction with shared responsibility and shared prosperity,” Van Hollen said.

According to the memo, the GOP would:

— Eliminate the Social Services Block Grant program, which gives federal funding to states and cities to assist 23 million low-income children, seniors and disabled Americans by providing money for Meals on Wheels, child abuse prevention programs, child care centers and job training programs.

— Cut $5.4 billion by eliminating direct spending for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, making it the only banking regulator subject to the annual appropriations process. Changing the agency’s funding “would likely lessen consumer protection while adding to the pressure of keeping to a low discretionary spending cap,” the memo states.

— Cut $36 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as the food stamp program, that provides aid to low-income Americans. Nearly 1.8 million people would lose federal food aid and about 300,000 students would lose free-school meals aid.

— Cut $11.9 billion by eliminating the Prevention and Public Health Fund, an account used to pay for cancer prevention and public-health programs. (House Republicans proposed cutting $6 billion from the fund last week when they voted to approve lower subsidized student loan interest rates for another year, noting that Democrats previously authorized cutting $4 billion from the fund.)

— Eliminate $83 billion in spending by requiring federal and postal employees to pay more towards retirement benefits. “Each federal employee will, in effect, have their pay cut an average of more than $30,000 over the next ten years,” the memo states. Those additional costs would be on top of a two-year pay freeze that has saved $60 billion.

In hopes of driving home that last point to lawmakers and their staffs, the memo notes that members of Congress would have to pay an additional 8.5 percent of their salaries for retirement benefits if the GOP plan is approved; congressional staff would have to pay 7.5 percent more, over five years.

Staff writer Rosalind S. Helderman contributed to this report.

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