House Republican budget-cutters raised the ante Wednesday on their Senate counterparts, calling for deeper reductions in most federal programs - including Medicare - to balance the budget and help pay for $348 billion in tax cuts.
Vowing to keep their promise to shrink the power and reach of the federal government, the Republicans unveiled a plan to slash spending by $1.4 trillion by 2002 amid Democratic complaints that the size and pace of the budget cuts hurt the elderly and the poor.
“We’ve kept our word and met the challenge,” said Budget Committee chairman John Kasich, R-Ohio, “We are beginning a process of restoring a balance by shifting power, money and influence away from Washington back to state and local governments and, where possible, to individuals.”
The House version of the five-year budget blueprint - which also contains estimates for two more years to reflect the GOP’s intention to erase deficits by 2002 - mostly mirrors a document released Tuesday by the Senate Budget Committee.
Only it goes further than the Senate plan in slashing social spending, education programs and a host of other federal enterprises.
Both the House and Senate budget committees are expected to approve the plans this week and have them ready for floor action next week, a fast pace designed to deny opponents time to mobilize. After that, Congress still has to pass bills to put the budget plans into effect. Those are the more critical pieces of legislation.
An ebullient Kasich unveiled his budget plan while seated beneath a blinking-light signboard that registered the climb of the national debt each second.
The chairman insisted that the plan was evenhanded in its cuts. “No one got out of the barrel,” he said, “we’ve gone over it with a fine-tooth comb under a microscope. … We’re downsizing government, shifting power from this city and giving American families tax relief.”
But Democrats heaped scorn on the GOP plan as an “ideological document” intended to meet political objectives rather than solve such practical problems as educating the young, narrowing the growing income disparity between rich and poor, and retraining workers for new jobs.