Senate OKs GOP Balanced Budget Plan 03/27 06:11
Republicans muscled a balanced-budget plan through the Senate early Friday,
positioning Congress for months of battling President Barack Obama over the
GOP's goals of slicing spending and dismantling his health care law.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Republicans muscled a balanced-budget plan through the
Senate early Friday, positioning Congress for months of battling President
Barack Obama over the GOP's goals of slicing spending and dismantling his
health care law.
Working into Friday's pre-dawn hours, senators approved the blueprint by a
near party-line 52-46 vote, endorsing a measure that closely follows one the
House passed Wednesday. Both budgets embody a conservative vision of shrinking
projected federal deficits by more than $5 trillion over the coming decade,
mostly by cutting health care and other benefit programs and without raising
The Senate was beginning a spring recess after approving the measure,
leaving Congress' two GOP-run chambers to negotiate a compromise budget in
mid-April. The legislation is a non-binding blueprint that does not require
Obama's signature but lays the groundwork for future bills that seem destined
for veto fights with the president.
"Republicans have shown that the Senate is under new management and
delivering on the change and responsible government the American people
expect," said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
Democrats viewed the document differently, saying it relied on gimmickry and
touted the wrong priorities.
"The budget we passed today is irresponsible and fails to effectively invest
in our future," said Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md.
The budget's solidly ideological tenor contrasted with a bipartisan bill the
House overwhelmingly approved Thursday permanently blocking perennial cuts in
physicians' Medicare fees. It too will wait until April for final congressional
approval by the Senate, with McConnell saying his chamber will handle it "very
quickly when we get back."
Though doctors face a 21 percent cut in Medicare fees April 1, the
government can delay processing those payments until Congress' return. The
measure, which also provides money for health care programs for children and
low-income people, would be partly financed with higher premiums for
top-earning Medicare recipients.
On the budget, only two Republicans voted no: Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and
Rand Paul of Kentucky, a pair of presidential hopefuls. Two other potential GOP
presidential candidates, Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Lindsey Graham of
South Carolina, voted yes.
All voting Democrats were opposed.
The Senate completed its budget work after enduring one of its more painful
traditions: A multi-hour "vote-a-rama" in which senators repeatedly debate and
vote on a pile of non-binding amendments well past midnight. Senators offer the
amendments because the votes can demonstrate support for a policy or be used to
embarrass opponents in future campaigns.
Those approved included one by Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, entitling
married same-sex couples to Social Security and veterans' spousal benefits. It
got 11 GOP votes, including from several Republicans facing competitive
re-elections next year.
Also adopted was one by McConnell aimed at thwarting Obama administration
efforts to reduce coal pollution.
Congress' GOP budgets both matched the spending plan that Obama presented
last month when it comes to defense, proposing $612 billion for next year, a
4.5 percent boost over current levels. Some conservatives were unhappy because
they wanted more of the extra military spending to be offset with savings from
elsewhere in the budget.
But mostly, the Republican blueprints diverge starkly from Obama's fiscal
While his leaves a projected deficit exceeding $600 billion 10 years from
now, the Senate plan claims a surplus of $3 billion.
Over the decade, Obama would raise $2 trillion in higher taxes from the
wealthy, corporations and smokers while granting tax breaks to low-income and
middle-class families. He would boost spending on domestic programs including
road construction, preschools and community colleges and veterans.
The Senate budget would cut $4.3 trillion from benefit programs over the
next 10 years, including annulling Obama's health care law, a step the
president would without doubt veto.
Those savings would include $431 billion from Medicare, matching Obama's
figure. The House budget would pare $148 billion from the health care program
for the elderly and convert it into a voucher-like program for future
beneficiaries, a step the Senate shunned.
The Senate budget would cut $236 billion from the budgets of nondefense
agencies. The House would go even further, slicing $759 billion.