House Oks Balanced Budget Plan End Of Deficit Spending Promised By 2002

Keeping their vows to shrink the federal government and shift more power to the states, House Republicans rammed through a budget plan Thursday that promises to end deficit spending by the year 2002.

Virtually every American would be affected by the plan, a starting point in congressional deliberations over which government programs to eliminate, cut or restrain.

Among those with the most at stake: the elderly on Medicare, the poor and elderly on Medicaid and young people facing the prospect of paying the bills left by older generations if current trends continue.

“This is just the beginning of six months of hard work,” said House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga. “Now we have to take this to reality.”

As the clock ticked down on the 238-193 vote, scores of jubilant Republicans carrying copies of the budget resolution lined up in the well of the House to get it autographed by Gingrich and House Budget Committee Chairman John Kasich, R-Ohio. Some even likened the plan to the Declaration of Independence.

“You know why we put this revolutionary document together?” asked Kasich. “This is about a growth society, an opportunity society. … If we can balance the budget …, we can begin to chart the kind of prosperity we can have in America.”

A similar budget resolution is expected to be adopted by the GOP-controlled Senate next week, although the Senate version does not slice as deeply into housing, education and health-care programs as the House plan. Nor does it contain a big tax cut.

After differences between the two plans are worked out, congressional committees will begin deciding exactly where and how to slash programs to meet the broad objectives of the budget resolution. That process will dominate the congressional agenda for this year.

If the contentious House debate on the budget plan was any indication, the coming tax and spending deliberations will be highly partisan - with each party trying to claim the political high ground.

Republicans say they are making tough choices to balance the budget for the good of the country, while Democrats counter that the GOP is stacking the deck in favor of businesses and affluent taxpayers at the expense of the elderly and the poor.

“Why?” asked Rep. Martin Olav Sabo, D-Minn. “To pass a tax cut to benefit primarily those who have also been rewarded the most by our economy in the last 20 years.”

Throughout the House debate, members of both parties used colorful charts and enlarged photographs to make their points. Democrats held up pictures of elderly Americans and middle-class families they said would be hurt. Kasich ended the debate by countering with a picture of babies, saying the next generation of taxpayers was the big winner.

On the final vote, 230 of the 231 Republicans voted for the budget resolution and 191 of 199 Democrats and one Independent voted against it. The lone GOP dissenter was Rep. Michael P. Flanagan of Illinois.

The House plan would reduce projected spending by the federal government by more than $1 trillion over the next seven years. Unlike the Senate plan, it also provides for a $350 billion tax cut for families with children, investors and corporations.

That will be a major source of contention with the Senate, where Budget Committee Chairman Pete Domenici, R-N.M., has steadfastly insisted tax cuts should take a back seat to deficit reduction. Another potential difference: the House plan would increase defense spending above levels recommended by President Clinton, while Domenici’s plan adopts Clinton’s numbers.

The House plan promises to eliminate three Cabinet departments - Commerce, Education and Energy - and abolish 14 agencies, 283 federal programs and 68 commissions. For example, government funding for Amtrak, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Voice of America and mass-transit operations would be eliminated under suggestions contained in the plan.

Democrats said the GOP plan would not allow Medicare and Medicaid to keep pace with the rise in the number of recipients and the inflation-driven higher cost of services. The GOP plan would cut annual spending increasing for Medicare and Medicaid from 10 percent by about half.

“This Republican budget says two things,” railed Rep. Barbara Kennelly, D-Conn., “don’t get sick and don’t get old.”

Before the final vote, the House brushed aside rival proposals that would have reached the same goal of a balanced budget without hitting the poor as hard.

Two of the alternative budget plans would have scrapped the contentious tax cut and slashed defense spending to preserve some of the housing, urban aid, health and education programs.


Here’s how Northwest lawmakers voted on spending cuts of $16.4 billion from the federal budget.

Idaho. Republicans - Helen Chenoweth, Y; Mike Crapo, Y.

Montana. Democrats - Pat Williams, N.

Oregon. Republicans - Jim Bunn, Y; Wes Cooley, Y.

Democrats - Peter DeFazio, N; Elizabeth Furse, N; Ron Wyden, N.

Washington. Republicans - Jennifer Dunn, Y; Doc Hastings, Y; Jack Metcalf, Y; George Nethercutt, Y; Linda Smith, Y; Randy Tate, Y; Rick White, Y.

Democrats - Norm Dicks, N; Jim McDermott, N. - Associated Press xxxx BUDGET GLANCE The House budget resolution promises to: Balance the budget by 2002. Reduce projected government spending by more than $1 trillion over seven years. Reduce the annual growth rates of Medicare and Medicaid by about half. Provide about $350 billion in tax cuts. Eliminate the departments of Commerce, Education and Energy. Abolish 14 agencies, including the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, 283 federal programs and 68 commissions.

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