WASHINGTON — Republicans controlling Congress moved ahead on multiple fronts on Wednesday with their budget for the upcoming year — and headlong into a battle with President Barack Obama.
House-Senate negotiators on a sweeping — but nonbinding — budget plan sealed agreement Wednesday. The 10-year balanced budget plan calls upon lawmakers to repeal President Barack Obama’s health care law while enacting major curbs on safety net programs like Medicaid and food stamps. It would cut future-year budgets for domestic agencies below already tight spending “caps” that the White House is vowing to dismantle.
Separately, the House was moving on a normally bipartisan bill funding veterans’ programs but the measure was running into unusual opposition from Democrats despite increases of almost 6 percent above current levels for the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The White House promises to veto the veterans’ bill in protest of unrelated GOP plans to boost the Pentagon’s budget while ignoring pleas to increase domestic programs.
Republicans promoted their broader 10-year budget plan, which promises to cut federal spending projected at almost $50 trillion over the coming decade by more than $5 trillion, with the bulk of the cuts coming from federal health care programs.
“We are going to be passing a balanced budget for a stronger America so that we can … look to the future of our country and say to our children and my grandchildren that we’re doing everything that we can do to get this budget onto balance,” said Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn.
But Republicans are focused more on repealing so-called “Obamacare” than they are cutting spending elsewhere in the budget and following through on their promise to balance the budget within a decade.
That’s because the annual congressional budget measure by itself does nothing unless followed up by binding legislation to cut spending and set agency operating budgets. The budget measure also allows majority Republicans advance a special fast-track budget bill to Obama without the threat of a Democratic filibuster.
Republicans plan to use the special filibuster-proof bill to wage an assault on Obama’s Affordable Care Act rather than try to impose a variety of painful cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, student loans and other so-called mandatory programs over Obama’s opposition.
Meanwhile, the House took up the veterans bill, the first of 12 agency spending bills for the budget year beginning in October. The measure awards generous increases to the troubled VA but falls short of Obama’s budget request. That has both Democrats and GOP-friendly veterans groups like the Veterans of Foreign Wars blasting the measure, which usually enjoys sweeping bipartisan support.
The White House on Tuesday threatened to veto the measure because Republicans are moving to pump almost $40 billion into the Pentagon while failing to ease automatic spending cuts known as sequestration for domestic agencies.
ANDREW TAYLOR, Associated Press