Republican leaders in the Senate, laying the groundwork to pass their far-reaching plan to balance the budget in seven years, scrambled Tuesday to overcome the very public objections of GOP moderates and others who say they are cutting too deeply into education, Medicare and Medicaid while giving generous tax breaks to businesses and the wealthy.
The latest headache for GOP leaders developed when Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., a contender for the party’s 1996 presidential nomination, denounced the proposed $245 billion tax cut as “unfair” and called the overall budget bill “bad politics as well as bad publicity.”
In remarks eerily reminiscent of Democratic rhetoric - just three days before the scheduled Senate vote - Specter asked:
“How can we justify cuts in Medicare and Medicaid, student aid, job training, low-income energy assistance, workplace safety, Head Start, child immunization and Earned Income Tax Credits while we simultaneously give corporate tax breaks … and tax breaks to people in high brackets?”
The tax cuts “jeopardize the ultimate goal of balancing the budget,” Specter said, because the largest spending cuts occur in the later years while tax cuts occur at the start of the seven-year period - and there is “no guarantee” that the savings will materialize.
Further piling on, other moderate Republicans - echoing sentiments expressed by Democrats for weeks now - urged their leadership Tuesday to ease cuts in college student loans and to strengthen federal nursing home standards.
Such intra-party contention elated Senate Democrats, who quickly reiterated their intention to try to restore all $43 billion in spending cuts slated for the earned income tax credit for the working poor; restore all but $89 billion in Medicare cuts; restore $125 billion of the $187 billion in spending cuts targeted for Medicaid, and restore $7 billion of the $10.8 billion in spending cuts for student loans.
“This week defines the difference between them and us,” said Sen. John F. Kerry, D-Mass., referring to Republicans.