In unanimous vote, House Budget calls for answers on cuts

House Republicans and Democrats on the Budget Committee voted unanimously on Wednesday to demand answers from the administration on the automatic $109 billion in budget cuts slated to hit Jan. 2.

The bill, reported out of committee, would require the Office of Management and Budget to detail how defense and non-defense programs would be affected by the automatic cuts.

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The cuts were triggered by the failure of the debt supercommittee to come up with $1.2 trillion in deficit cuts last year.

The House Budget Committee vote follows approval of a similar bipartisan measure in the Senate last week. The Senate attached an amendment, sponsored by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), to the 2012 farm bill that also demanded OMB to furnish the information. 

McCain had originally demanded information on defense cuts, but Murray was able to add provisions to the amendment requiring information on social program cuts as well.

Republicans said the information will bolster the case for a House-passed bill that would replace the across-the-board automatic cuts with $242 billion in more tailored trims over ten years.

“Under the Budget Control Act, the Office of Management and Budget will make arbitrary across-the-board spending cuts, resulting in a 10 percent cut to defense spending and an 8 percent cut to non-defense discretionary spending,” Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said. “That’s why House Republicans passed legislation last month that would replace these crippling cuts with common-sense reforms and spending reductions.”

Democrats say the information will help them make the case for a “balanced” deficit solution that includes tax increases on the wealthy and the elimination of special interest tax breaks. They argue that the GOP replacement unfairly targets anti-poverty programs.

During the markup, committee Ranking Member Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) offered an amendment that would have instituted a one-year spending cut replacement.

The amendment is identical to one Van Hollen tried to secure a vote on this spring until Democrats were blocked from doing so by the Rules Committee. It would cut spending on farm subsidies and flood insurance while raising taxes on oil companies and millionaires.

Van Hollen claimed during the debate that House Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) and Senate Armed Services Ranking Member Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) would support his approach of closing “wasteful” loopholes for the biggest oil companies to spare the defense department from deep cuts.

Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) then went on a rhetorical offensive accusing the GOP of cutting Meals on Wheels while giving tax breaks to small businesses that added to the deficit.

Ryan said that the Van Hollen replacement would be an $85 billion tax increase on top of trillions in tax increases slated to take effect at the end of this year.

“I guess the economy is doing well and we can start raising taxes. Is that the presumption?” Ryan asked, jumping on an admission by Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) that he had voted to extend the Bush era tax rates in 2010 because the economy was weak.

The House Budget Committee voted the Van Hollen amendment down on 10 to 18 vote.

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