House Budget Committee ranking member Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) on Tuesday provided more detail on how his new budget alternative differs from President Obama’s budget, and hr more explicitly made the case that the budget debate would help Democrats in the fall elections.
The Democratic budget is broadly similar to Obama’s proposal and, although on paper it shows $1 trillion more in deficits over 10 years, the differences are likely to be smaller once the Congressional Budget Office scores Obama’s proposal using updated economic assumptions.
“It is similar but not identical with the president’s plan,” Van Hollen said of his approach, coming up for a vote this week in the House.
The biggest differences are, rather than identify specific tax loopholes to close, a politically risky undertaking, Van Hollen’s budget offers broad instructions to the Ways and Means Committee to go after tax breaks.
The other major difference is that the House Democratic budget fully reverses all sequester cuts to nondefense discretionary spending, Van Hollen said.
The defense base levels are the same, but the Democratic budget ends war funding for Afghanistan, saving $180 billion, compared to Obama’s plan.
“I don’t think it is logical to say, based on what happened to Ukraine, we should dramatically increase our defense budget,” Van Hollen said.
House Democrats also do not include $38 billion in "fence funding" for immigration enforcement that the Obama budget includes.
Van Hollen said Democrats expect the contrast between the House GOP budget, which cuts $5.1 trillion in spending, mostly from low-income programs, and the Democratic alternative would help motivate Democratic base voters in November.
“Our budget motivates a lot of people, and their budget turns off a lot of people,” he said.
He said that, while repealing ObamaCare is the top concern for conservative base voters, swing voters are more concerned about the differences in economic policies between the parties.
“They could not be more stark, and this budget debate is Exhibit A,” Van Hollen said.
The ranking member said he remains a personal friend of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) despite his “outrageous” plan.
“As a human being, I think his motivations are genuine, but I think his policies are incredibly misguided,” he said.
Van Hollen said a shutdown crisis could loom, when fiscal 2016 starts on Oct. 1, 2015, because Ryan’s budget cuts domestic spending by $43 billion below sequester levels.
“They are risking getting themselves dug into a government shutdown position,” he said. “People who are voting on this budget based on that promise are going to have a difficult time coming around to making the necessary compromises.”
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