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House approves Ryan plan to cut budget $5 trillion

The House approved a spending framework Thursday that would shave more than $5 trillion of expected spending, advancing Rep. Paul Ryan’s final budget proposal on a largely party-line vote.

The Wisconsin Republican, whose term as Budget Committee chairman expires later this year, offered a last fiscal framework that included his controversial overhaul of Medicare and other entitlement programs, while also advocating a reduction of top individual tax rates down to 25 percent. Democrats blasted the proposal as a “windfall tax break for millionaires”, as Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) described it, and they vowed to make the 2014 midterm elections a referendum on Ryan’s proposals and its impact on the middle class.

The vote on Ryan’s budget, which followed the rejection of several other proposals, including Van Hollen’s, was 219 Republicans for the measure and 193 Democrats opposing it. Twelve Republicans voted against the Ryan measure, most of those believing that it was not conservative enough.

The debate was even more symbolic than most budget debates, as Ryan and his Senate Budget Committee counterpart, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), reached a two-year budget framework in December that is serving as the baseline for doling out federal funds in 2014 and 2015. Senate Democrats have announced they will not even hold the usual annual budget debate because of the Ryan-Murray agreement.

Ryan still put forward an austere proposal that built largely on his previous three proposals, calling his plan “a question of  trust” in the closing moments of the debate. “We trust the American people,” he said.

It would gut President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, while maintaining the savings engendered through special taxes and cuts to Medicare providers, and it retained his call to transform the elderly health program into one in which seniors would receive payments from the government and purchase their insurance on the private marketplace.

Democrats said such a voucher-like program would shred the guarantee of Medicare and vowed to elevate the overall issue in advance of the November elections.

“We just want to have a debate on the issues, because this is about who we are as a country,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said earlier this week.

Paul Kane covers Congress and politics for the Washington Post.

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