One chamber of Congress down and one to go for the 2016 Republican budget plan. Yesterday, House Republicans scored a big win by passing a 2016 budget in a 228-199 vote. The vote went as expected with just 17 Republicans voting against the budget, a slight raise from the 12 who voted against last year’s budget. Every House Democrat present voted against it.
The budget would balance in nine years by cutting $5.5 trillion in spending over the next decade. None of the $96 billion being targeted for the war account would be offset with spending cuts. Like previous House budgets drafted by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), now Ways and Means Committee chairman, the House budget would repeal the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), it would partially privatize Medicare by introducing a premium support system. Medicaid would be converted into block grants to states.
Sometime today the Senate will vote on their own 2016 Budget and members of the GOP in the upper chamber hope to be able to nail down their plan before the end of business Friday at the latest. While the two GOP budgets are similar, important differences will make it difficult to reconcile them — the next step in the budgetary process.
Senate Republicans are also seeking $96 billion for the war account next year. But their blueprint contains a caveat — a 60-vote point of order against any spending bill that would raise the fund above $58 billion. Also, any spending bill that includes more than $58 billion for the war account would need a supermajority of 60 votes to win approval in the Senate.
This is by no means a done deal and as a matter of fact the last time a Republican-controlled Congress approved a joint conference agreement was in 2005. Then there is the fact that this budget will never be signed into law by President Obama even if it does make it through both the House and the Senate.
Here are the points that you need to know:
It won’t become law – Congressional budget resolutions are not legally binding. They are used to set overall spending levels for the federal government programs, but the House and Senate Appropriations committees craft bills that lay out specific funding plans for each agency.
It cuts $5.5 trillion in spending – Leaders of both parties frequently say budgets are “a statement of priorities” and House Budget committee chairman Tom Price, R-Georgia, has dubbed this year’s version as “A Balanced Budget for a Stronger America.”
The GOP plan cuts $5.5 trillion in federal spending over the next ten years and balances the budget in roughly nine years. It gives congressional committees a July 15 deadline to detail how they would carry out the budget cuts.
The Republican proposal converts the Medicare program into a “premium support plan.” For those aged 56 and younger the new structure for the federal health care plan for seniors would give out federal vouchers and seniors would purchase coverage on the private market. Democrats argue the new proposal would mean cuts in services and higher out of pocket costs for seniors.
The budget also shifts both the Medicaid and the food stamp programs into block grant programs which would be administered by the states.
Because budget writers had to comply with spending limits set by a 2011 law known as the “Budget Control Act” they had to cap spending for both defense and non-defense accounts. The overall federal budget for the next fiscal year is a little more than $1.1 trillion, with defense spending is limited to $523 billion and non-defense domestic programs are capped at $493 billion.
Republican divisions jeopardized the budget’s chances – A split between defense hawks, who wanted more money for the Pentagon, and fiscal hawks, who want to enforce spending caps, made the path to passing a budget a steep climb for GOP leaders. Democrats are solidly against the GOP plan, so House Speaker John Boehner needs to get enough of his own members to back it to avoid an embarrassing failed vote. Boehner announced he would add another $2 billion in defense money in an off budget fund to boost Pentagon spending levels and attract support from those members focused on national security programs.
Leaders used a parliamentary rule called “queen of the Hill” to pass a GOP budget – Because of concerns over conservative defections Republican leaders decided to employ a mechanism that allows votes on multiple budgets. The version that gets a majority and the most votes will be the one that passes. Leadership aides and multiple members predict the vote will be close, but they believe the budget that added the defense money will pass.
It boosts the GOP effort to repeal Obamacare – Even though the budget doesn’t become law, if House and Senate Republicans can agree on a budget resolution they can use a procedural tool to pass a repeal of President Barack Obama’s signature health care plan with a simple majority.
The one thing that unites GOP members is their drive to repeal Obamacare. Although they control both house of Congress and pass can pass a bill to repeal the 2010 health care law. They fall woefully short of two thirds majority that it would take to override a presidential veto.
Under a process known as “budget reconciliation” that is included in both Senate and House budget proposals they are able to send a bill to the President’s desk with just 51 votes. President Obama has already vowed to veto any bill that dismantles the health care law, but Republicans say they promise to follow through on their pledge to end Obamacare.