WASHINGTON – In a vote that will help define the Republican Party in this election year and beyond, the GOP-led House approved a 2013 budget that would cut taxes for the wealthy, revamp Medicare and slash federal spending.
Thursday’s 228-191 vote, mostly along party lines, will fuel the robust debate that is playing out not only in Congress but also on the campaign trail. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has embraced the GOP proposal, which is sharply at odds with President Barack Obama’s blueprint that includes higher taxes on the wealthy and corporations.
But it is the GOP’s proposed overhaul of Medicare, the federal health program for the elderly, that could provide the greatest contrast between the parties – and have the most lasting political impact.
Republicans want to create a new system under which future retirees would get a stipend to buy health insurance, an approach the GOP says would hold down costs and begin to rein in the deficit.
Democrats argue that, under the GOP plan, the rising costs of health care will simply be shifted to seniors, who will end up paying more. No Democrats voted for the bill, and the White House immediately attacked it.
“House Republicans today banded together to shower millionaires and billionaires with a massive tax cut paid for by ending Medicare as we know it,” said White House press secretary Jay Carney. He said the vote shows “the Republican establishment grasping onto the same failed economic policies that stacked the deck against the middle class and created the worst financial crisis in decades.”
Republicans believe their proposal gives voters a clear choice this fall. They say their budget is the only one that seriously tackles the nation’s $11 trillion public debt load.