The Republican drive to shrink government passed its first congressional test early today as the GOP muscled through the House Budget Committee a plan to eliminate federal deficits within seven years.
Overpowering Democrats who complained the plan would wound the neediest Americans, the panel voted 24-17 to send the measure to the full House next week. Only Rep. Mike Parker, D-Miss., a conservative who helped Republicans craft their blueprint, broke party ranks in the 1 a.m. vote.
Just two blocks away, the Senate Budget Committee inched toward approving a similar budget-balancing blueprint of its own. Support for the measure among majority Republicans was unwavering there, too, and the panel was certain to approve the package in time for the Senate to debate it next week.
The GOP packages would pare programs as sweeping as Medicare and foreign aid, and as narrow as the Dance Advisory Panel and the Fastener Advisory Committee.
The Senate plan would slice nearly $1 trillion from expected spending over the next seven years; the House reductions would go even further to finance $350 billion in promised tax cuts as well.
Thanks to those savings, both Republican measures projected tiny budget surpluses in 2002 to begin erasing the huge debt that has been building since the Vietnam War.
Recalling last fall’s GOP campaign pledge to balance the budget, House Budget Committee Chairman John Kasich, R-Ohio, called his outline a “bold, innovative, revolutionary document that keeps our promises.”
To dramatize what Republicans were doing, Kasich hung a digital “National Debt Clock” behind his hearing-room chair that ticked off increases in the $4.7 trillion national debt as lawmakers debated his plan.
But that didn’t stop Democrats, both liberals and conservatives, from avowing their opposition to the GOP outlines. They contended that Republicans were harshly paring Medicare, Medicaid, welfare, and other programs for the poor and frail while paving the way for tax cuts for the well-off just when deficit reduction must be paramount.
“That’s a pretty heavy whack for families with children,” liberal Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., said of a GOP proposal reducing the earned income tax credit for the working poor by $21 billion.