House Dems introduce $3.6T budget plan

House Democrats on Monday night introduced their 2013 budget plan to compete with the Republicans’ proposal on the chamber floor this week.

Sponsored by Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.), senior Democrat on the House Budget Committee, the $3.6 trillion proposal is not expected to pass, but nonetheless provides the Democrats with a comprehensive plan to distinguish their policy priorities from those of Republicans this election year.

{mosads}The proposal adopts much of President Obama’s job-creation agenda, including tens of billions of dollars for near-term stimulus spending on infrastructure and other federal programs, while keeping Medicare and other entitlement benefits largely intact. The budget adds $6 trillion to deficits over 10 years, compared to $6.4 trillion for the president. It contains $643 billion less in spending, and $219 billion less in revenue.

Van Hollen said his proposal “stands in clear contrast” to the GOP bill, which the Democrats have attacked as a giveaway to the wealthy at the expense of seniors and the middle class.

“This budget will reduce the deficit in a balanced and credible way, making difficult choices while providing investments that help create jobs now and build an even stronger economy for the future,” Van Hollen said in a statement. “But unlike the Republican budget — which ends the Medicare guarantee while providing tax breaks to millionaires — we ask the very wealthy and special interests to share responsibility for reducing the deficit.”

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As expected, Van Hollen’s plan adopts the $1.047 trillion cap on discretionary spending in 2013 — the same level agreed upon in August’s bipartisan debt-ceiling deal. That sets the Democrats’ budget apart from the Republicans’ plan, authored by Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), which lowers the discretionary spending cap to $1.028 trillion.

Democrats say their plan would slash deficit spending over the next decade, from 8.1 percent of the economy in 2012 to 2.7 percent in 2022, largely by ending the Bush-era tax cuts on the wealthiest Americans and by adopting what they have labeled “the Buffett Rule.” The rule, named after billionaire investor Warren Buffett, is meant to ensure that the wealthy pay at least as much as middle-class taxpayers.

The Democrats’ proposal would also extend Bush’s tax breaks for families making up to $1 million per year, a threshold championed by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.). 

Van Hollen’s plan also eliminates the $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts under the sequester included in the August agreement, replacing it with “greater deficit reduction from targeted spending cuts and revenue increases,” according to a summary of the legislation.

In a controversial move, the Democrats also glean some of their savings by eliminating future war funding for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan — a maneuver many Republicans say is disingenuous because troop drawdowns in those countries likely mean the money would never be spent anyway.

The Van Hollen budget gets more savings from ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan than does the president’s budget. The president estimates $494 billion spent on the wars; Van Hollen says $141 billion.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) characterized the proposal as a statement of the Democrats’ values “founded on the fundamental principles of fairness, opportunity and prosperity for all.”

“Our balanced approach invests in America’s priorities, protects our seniors and strengthens our middle class,” she said in a statement.

The House is expected to vote this week on both the Ryan plan and Van Hollen’s alternative, as well as several other budget proposals offered by the Republican Study Committee, the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

Erik Wasson contributed.

This story was updated at 8:16 a.m.

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