This post has been updated.
In a major disappointment to those hoping Congress will strike a grand bargain to cut deficits through spending cuts and tax revenues, a budget proposal designed around those principles was supported by only 38 House members Wednesday night.
Proposed by Republican Steven C. LaTourette of Ohio and Democrat Jim Cooper of Tennessee, the plan called for reducing the deficit by $4 trillion over the next decade, including more than $1 trillion in new tax dollars.
The House also Wednesday night rejected 0-414, a budget based on a plan proposed by President Obama. Republicans forced the action to highlight that Democrats declined to introduce Obama’s budget for congressional consideration. Democrats said the Republican offering did not accurately represent Obama’s plan.
The LaTourette-Cooper budget was modeled on an approach suggested 15 months ago by a presidential fiscal commission chaired by former senator Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.) and White House official Erskine Bowles. Wednesday’s vote was the first time either chamber had voted on their ideas.
The votes came as the House considers six alternatives to a Republican spending plan authored by Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.). The sponsors of the Simpson-Bowles proposal had no illusion that their plan would be adopted instead.
Sponsors of the bipartisan budget had hoped a strong vote of support could signal a new bipartisan desire to tackle deficits. Instead, the vote might symbolize Washington’s intractable partisan differences. Only 16 Republicans and 22 Democrats backed the idea.
Ryan’s plan, which would cut $5.3 trillion over the next decade through deep cuts to the social safety net while slashing tax rates, is expected to win approval Thursday in a party-line vote.
The House will also vote Thursday on a Democratic alternative authored by the committee’s top Democrat, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.), as well as a plan advanced by conservatives on the Republican Study Committee, which would cut spending even more quickly than Ryan has proposed. On Wednesday night, the House rejected a separate proposal from the Congressional Black Caucus.
The Democratic-led Senate will not adopt the Ryan plan and the budgets are non-binding. But the dueling plans allow the parties to lay out key statements on governing during this election year.
The budget modeled on the Simpson-Bowles plan was the only bipartisan proposal under consideration and there was considerable mystery about how it would fare.
While fully expecting defeat, its sponsors had hoped for a respectable count, a moral victory to show a sizable part of the House is ready to consider a deficit plan that includes cuts and revenue.
They had hoped for at least 100 votes of support, matching the number of members who signed a letter in the fall urging the failed congressional deficit reduction supercommittee to adopt a balanced approach to the debt.
They had been hoping to build support in preparation for a post-election showdown and for a possible bipartisan deal when the Bush tax cuts expire and deep automatic spending cuts occur Jan. 1.
“This is just the beginning of a process,” Cooper said.
Though it was widely praised, neither the president nor congressional leaders in either party embraced the Simpson-Bowles plan outright and House leaders in both parties greeted Wednesday night’s vote warily.
The budget called for reducing deficits by $3 trillion over the next decade, with $2 trillion coming from new spending cuts and $1.2 trillion from higher tax revenues.
Revenue dollars would come through a rewrite of the tax code intended to sweep out loopholes and subsidies and ultimately lower rates. The Republican budget also calls for ending loopholes but would put all the revenue generated into lowering rates — proposing to bring the top individual and corporate rates down to 25 percent.
The plan had faced vigorous opposition from left and right. Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform opposed the plan for its tax hikes, and indicated the group would consider a vote in a support a violation of a pledge signed by more than 230 House Republicans promising not to raise taxes.
Meanwhile, the left-leaning Center for Economic Policy put out a deeply skeptical analysis of the proposal as well, noting that it called for deeper spending cuts and less new tax revenue than had been endorsed by Simpson and Bowles.
But the effort was endorsed by Simpson and Bowles, as did former senator Pete Dominici (R-N.M.) and Alice Rivlin, who chaired a separate effort by the Bipartisan Policy Center to devise a broad strategy to reduce the deficit.
“The courage of the members who are supporting the Cooper-LaTourette budget shows that a vital middle can exist in Congress, despite the deeply polarized ideological atmosphere of the recent past,” they said in a statement.