House turns away RSC budget alternative

The House on Thursday afternoon voted down a budget alternative offered by the Republican Study Committee (RSC), paving the way for House passage of a plan offered by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).

Members rejected the RSC proposal in a 136-285 vote in which 136 Republicans supported it and 104 Republicans opposed it. That's more support than the RSC budget received last year, when 119 Republicans favored it and 120 opposed it.

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The increase was due mostly to the decision by Democrats to vote against it rather than to vote "present," as they did last year. In 2011, most Democrats voted "present" at the last minute, causing a chaotic scene in which many Republicans were forced to oppose the proposal lest it pass over Ryan's budget, which was preferred by leadership.

House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Ca.) appeared to thwart the "vote present" strategy this year by holding down the GOP vote totals until after the electronic vote had closed. Once the clock had ticked down, at least ten GOP members voting against the amendment switched to "yes."

A GOP aide said, however, that the vote was held open simply because members were unsure of how to vote, and decided on the floor. A Democratic aide added that House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) did not pull the trigger on "present" strategy "just to do something different."

During debate, RSC members called on their colleagues to support their more aggressive plan to cut federal spending. Rep. Scott Garrett (R-N.J.) said the Obama administration has offered only tax increases as part of a budget proposal that never balances.

"This is a void in leadership, and it has substantial consequences on real Americans all across this country," he said.

RSC Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) asked why Democrats didn't press for tax hikes when they controlled Congress and the White House a few years ago.

"If it's so important to raise taxes on the American people and on certain businesses, why in the world didn't the Democrats do this just 24 months ago when they controlled all of government?" he asked.

After the vote, Garrett said the vote shows that most Republicans favor a more aggressive approach to deficit reduction.

"The majority of the Republican conference voted to amend the bill on the floor, the Ryan budget, so that's a telling indication of where the conference really is even though we couldn't get to 218 with the entire conference or with Democrats," said Garrett, who authored the RSC budget.

The RSC plan proposes $7.5 trillion in spending cuts over the next decade, about 50 percent more than Ryan's budget. It also calls for cuts and a freeze to discretionary spending until the budget balances.

— Erik Wasson contributed