House Republicans, by contrast, have adopted an anti-tax spending plan that would balance by 2023, leaving the national debt to top out at about $14 trillion. But the House budget, drafted by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), calls for a radical reduction in the size of government by curtailing spending on dozens of programs for the poor, repealing President Obama’s health-care law and partially privatizing Medicare for people now younger than 55.
Neither of the budget plans will ever be put into effect. Instead, they set the extreme boundaries as Washington prepares to open a new chapter in the long-running debate over taxes and spending.
The White House hailed the passage of the Senate budget Saturday, saying that, like the president’s plan, it “cuts wasteful spending, makes tough choices to strengthen entitlements, and eliminates special tax breaks and loopholes for the wealthiest Americans to reduce the deficit.”
“It is encouraging,” the statement added, “that both the Senate and House have made progress by passing budgets through regular order.”
In the coming days, Senate leaders plan to request a formal conference on the budget with the House. That would establish Ryan, the former vice-presidential nominee who chairs the House Budget Committee, and Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) as lead negotiators for their respective parties heading into another potential showdown later this summer over the federal debt limit.
Obama has been busily courting Republicans, mostly in the Senate, with the promise that Democrats would back a more moderate path to deficit-reduction that pairs roughly $600 billion in new revenue with nearly $1 trillion in spending cuts, including structural changes to Medicare and Social Security, by far the most expensive federal programs.
On Friday, Murray expressed optimism about the road ahead.
“I realize there are serious differences between the parties, and the last few years have been especially polarized here in Congress,” she said in remarks on the Senate floor. “But the House has now passed its budget resolution, and we will be working here in the Senate to pass ours this evening. We have presented very different visions for how our country should work and who it should work for — but I am hopeful that we can bridge this divide.”
The Senate last approved a budget blueprint in 2009, Obama’s first year in office, when Democrats controlled both the House and Senate. Since then, Senate leaders have chosen to keep the budget bottled up in committee, either to avoid tough votes in an election year or because Democrats could not agree on a plan that included big tax hikes, big deficits or both.