UPDATE 2:23 p.m.:
The House of Representatives passed a budget plan Friday that would cut spending by 6.2 trillion and bring the budget into balance by 2030.
The 295-193 vote comes a day after lawmakers passed a contentious budget deal that ended the possibility of a government shutdown in fiscal 2011.
The debate on various 2012 budget blueprints unfolded as Republicans smarted from President Obama’s attacks on their cost-cutting goals, and with Democrats frustrated at the GOP’s growing power and deficit-reduction zeal.
Several proposals are up for consideration, but most of the attention so far has focused on the House Republican plan presented by Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), which Republicans have dubbed “The Path to Prosperity.”
Lawmakers will vote on whether to endorse the plan early Friday afternoon. No Democrats are expected to vote for the Ryan proposal, but the blueprint is still likely to sail through the GOP-dominated House.
In an op-ed in Friday’s Washington Post, Ryan described the plan as “a budget for the 21st century.” The proposal offers a far-reaching vision for a much leaner federal bureaucracy, shrinking spending on federal health-care programs and slashing the budgets of domestic agencies. Medicaid and defense budgets would emerge unscathed.
“The House Republican budget . . . keeps a promise that is implicit in our form of government,” Ryan wrote: “That a government instituted to secure our rights must be a limited government.”
But Democrats argue that the GOP proposal would drastically affect the entitlement programs held near and dear to voters, especially seniors, and would also deny funding for crucial infrastructure investments..
Obama (D) rejected the Ryan plan in his speech on the country’s debt earlier this week. “We will all need to make sacrifices, but we do not have to sacrifice the America we believe in,” he said in a speech at George Washington University. “And, as long as I’m president, we won’t.”
Thursday night, in Chicago, Obama said America’s two major political party have dramatically different views of government that offer the nation “a very stark choice.”
“Under their vision, we can’t invest in roads and bridges and broadband and high-speed rail,” Obama said. “. . .We need to build on the compromises we made last week, but we can’t compromise on our investments to grow, the investments we need to create jobs.”
Even within the Democratic and Republican parties, the nation’s soaring debt and sluggish economy are stirring divisions.
Obama is taking heat from liberal groups angry that he is willing to cut domestic spending and make compromises with the Republican majority in Congress. And there is a growing rift inside the GOP over whether the tax increases Obama espouses--long anathema to Republicans--have become necessary. That fissure could threaten passage of any deal to reduce the deficit.
The House Republican leadership has praised the Ryan plan. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said earlier this week that he “fully supports” the budget blueprint, adding that it “has set the bar in terms of the kind of targets that we need to meet and the kind of serious effort that is required given the debts that we have.”
Democratic leaders in the House and Senate have blasted the plan, however, and belittled it as the “Road to Ruin.” Democrats have also made it clear that they intend to use vulnerable Republicans’ votes on the Ryan plan to pummel them on the campaign trail.
The House began debating the Ryan budget at 9 a.m. The first House vote, at 9:15, rejected the spending plan proposed by the Congressional Black Caucus.
Votes on the Republican Study Committee budget, the House Democratic leadership budget and the Democrats’ Congressional Progressive Caucus budget were planned for late morning and afternoon.
None of the alternative budgets is likely to pass.
The House is expected to start voting on the Ryan budget at 1:15, and to wrap up before 3 p.m.
In debate on the budget Thursday evening, some Democrats argued, as Obama did in his speech, that the country’s debt problem cannot be tackled without raising taxes from higher-income earners.
“You know, cry me a river,” Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) said on the House floor regarding potential higher taxes for the wealthy.
Republicans countered that Democrats were lashing out at the Ryan budget while ignoring the scope of the country’s deficit problem.
“Your problem isn’t Mr. Ryan. It’s Mr. Arithmetic,” Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) said.