The Republican-led House Budget Committee approved a $3.5 trillion budget for 2012 on Wednesday that was hailed by its GOP authors as an end to a federal spending binge but savaged by Democrats as an assault on retirees and the poor.
The party-line 22-16 vote underscored the sharp partisan divide over the blueprint, crafted by the committee’s chairman, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., at a time of record federal red ink. The measure lays the groundwork for a decade of cuts in spending, taxes and deficits, tempered by a shift in medical costs from the government to future retirees and a reshaping of the two chief federal health programs for the elderly and poor, Medicare and Medicaid.
The budget’s approval, which followed a daylong debate by the committee, sends the plan to the full House, where GOP leaders hope for a vote in the coming days.
Though the blueprint covers the entire reach of government, committee members focused much of their attention on health and other social programs, from which Republicans were proposing to wring hundreds of billions of dollars in savings over the next 10 years. Ryan said that with sky-high deficits, the government needs to limit its mission to programs that are truly needed.
“We don’t want to turn the safety net into a hammock that lulls people to lives of complacencies and dependencies, into a permanent condition where they never get on their feet,” he said.
Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, the panel’s top Democrat, said Republicans were protecting tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy at the expense of the middle class and the poor. The Republican budget proposes whittling the current 35 percent top tax rate on individuals and businesses to 25 percent.
“It doesn’t reform Medicare, it deforms and dismantles it,” Van Hollen said of the GOP’s budget. As for Medicaid, the budget “rips apart the safety net” for poor and older people, he added.
The budget is a nonbinding road map whose taxing and spending changes are supposed to be enacted in later, separate legislation.
But Ryan’s plan has no chance of being approved by the Democratic-run Senate, making it more of a statement of priorities that candidates are likely to embrace or attack during the 2012 campaigns.