Panel to Advance Budget Plan despite Conservative Rebellion

By Taylor, Andrew | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), March 17, 2016 | Go to article overview

Panel to Advance Budget Plan despite Conservative Rebellion


Taylor, Andrew, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


WASHINGTON * A key House panel approved on Wednesday a GOP plan to eliminate the federal budget deficit without tax increases demanded by Democrats, relying on sharp cuts to federal health care programs, government aid to the poor, and hundreds of domestic programs supported by lawmakers in both parties.

The 20-16 Budget Committee vote could be the high point for the GOP blueprint, which is short of the majority votes needed to advance through the GOP-controlled House. Two Tea Party Republicans defected on the otherwise party-line vote.

Many Tea Party conservatives oppose it because it sticks to last year's budget and debt deal with President Barack Obama, which awarded the Pentagon and domestic programs generous spending increases.

The plan which is an illustrative wish list rather than binding legislation reserves its biggest cuts for health care programs, proposing to eliminate "Obamacare" coverage for millions of people, slash Medicaid, raise the eligibility age for Medicare to 67, and transform Medicare into a voucher-like system for future retirees.

It proposes significant cuts and new work requirements for food stamp benefits and would eliminate the Social Services Block Grant, which provides flexible grants to states for services to the poor. It proposes requiring federal workers to pay greater contributions into their pension plans and would scale back student loan subsidies for undergraduates.

The reward for such sacrifices would be a budget that balances in 10 years and eases the government debt burden faced by future generations. The aim is that eliminating health-care subsidies would boost labor participation, and lower deficits would boost national savings and private investment.

The plan's author, Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price, R-Ga., said it would "prioritize the responsibilities of the federal government like national security and save and strengthen those programs that are critical to the health, retirement and economic security of millions of Americans."

The opposition of Tea Party conservatives in the House, including the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus, is a setback for House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis. …

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