Ryan budget advances to House floor

The House Republican 2012 budget resolution that would cut $5.8 trillion over 10 years was reported out of the Budget Committee on Wednesday night after a day-long markup. It now heads to the House floor for a vote set for next week.

As expected, the budget was approved along party lines, with 22 Republicans voting yes and 16 Democrats voting no. The ambitious legislation, which has virtually no chance of being approved in the Senate, reduces 10 years of deficits by $1.649 trillion compared to the status quo, and balances the budget shortly before 2040.

The 11-hour markup featured fierce arguments combined with some friendly exchanges.

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Committee ranking member Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), who considers himself a friend of Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), agreed to shave nine of the expected 30 amendments proposed by Democrats after 19 were defeated along party lines.

Two non-controversial Democratic amendments were accepted.

One would allow states to keep certain types of welfare funds rather than returning them to Washington.

The other, offered by Van Hollen, split the Republicans on the panel but got Ryan's vote. That amendment stated that to solve the budget deficit, security spending must be fully on the table. Ryan argued that his budget, in finding $78 billion in Defense spending to cut, does put it on the table, so the amendment is not objectionable.

Five Republicans disagreed and said they do not want to see Defense spending cut further.

Republicans Ken Calvert (Calif.), Todd Akin (Mo.), Tom Cole (Okla.), James Lankford (Okla.) and Todd Young (Ind.) voted no on the Van Hollen amendment.

Blue Dog Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.) put both sides on the spot by offering as an amendment a fiscal plan based on the bipartisan recommendations of the president's fiscal commission.

Shuler argued that the day's partisan attacks and counterattacks were pointless. Given divided government, he said, both sides should just work on a compromise that, like the fiscal commission, reduces the debt with a combination of two-thirds spending cuts and one-third tax increases.

Ryan very carefully argued against the tax increases in Shuler's plan and said they would hinder economic growth, but praised Shuler's attempt at bipartisanship.

Van Hollen initially said he would have to vote against the Schuler plan, since he could not support the “time frame” for some of the cuts. He has been adamant that deep cuts in the next few years could jeopardize the economic recovery.


More on the GOP's 2012 budget plan:
Point-by-point analysis | Fast tracked | Dems to offer alternative
Opinion: Rivlin & Domenici | Liberal group: Stealing Medicare


But, in the end, Van Hollen decided to vote “present” along with most Democrats. Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) voted with Shuler for the Blue Dog's plan.

Shuler had earlier broken with his party and voted with the Republicans in favor of extending Bush-era tax cuts for those making more than $1 million per year.

In the end, the markup, which in many ways served as a preview of the debate in the 2012 election, had both sides pretty satisfied that they had done the other party some damage.

Through their amendments, Democrats can now say they have Republicans on the record refusing to end Bush tax cuts for millionaires; to end Medicaid cuts for seniors in nursing homes; to guarantee no taxes will be raised on those making less than $200,000 a year; to end tax breaks to allow multinational escape paying taxes; to block cuts to Head Start and elementary education; to stop cuts to medical research, new food safety laws, the COPS program and funding for firefighters; to guarantee Social Security won't be privatized; and to fund the Dodd-Frank financial regulations.

Republicans got to fully articulate their small-government, pro-growth philosophy in a budget plan and to say they produced a debt-cutting budget where Democrats have failed. They tried out their defenses of the Ryan plan, arguing its reforms of Medicare and Medicaid are reasonable, and those arguments are now ready for a wider stage.

On a technical note, the GOP 2012 budget resolution, if passed by both chambers, would give appropriators a top-line number of $1.019 trillion to spend in 2012, the House Budget committee spokesman said Wednesday.

This so-called 302(A) allocation is not immediately apparent in the budget documents released Tuesday by the committee.

The $1.019 trillion is $72 billion less than 2010 spending levels, which were at $1.091 trillion, and $102 billion below President Obama's 2012 request, which called for a top line of $1.121 trillion.

The GOP 2012 budget resolution assumes the GOP is victorious in its fight on 2011 spending and is able to get $61 billion in cuts compared to 2010 this year. Spending would then decrease another $11 billion next year under the budget reported out of the House Budget Committee on Wednesday.