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House passes two budget proposals

Plan for 2014 and beyond relies on cuts to domestic programs

WASHINGTON – Moving on two fronts, the Republican-controlled House on Thursday voted to keep the government running for the next six months while pushing through a tea-party flavored budget for next year that would shrink government by another $4.6 trillion over the next decade.

The spending authorization on its way to the White House for President Barack Obama’s signature leaves in place $85 billion in spending cuts to the Pentagon and domestic programs. The result will be temporary furloughs for hundreds of thousands of federal workers and contractors over the next six months and interrupted, slower or halted services and aid for many Americans.

The nonbinding GOP budget proposal for 2014, similar to previous plans offered by Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., demonstrates that it’s possible, at least mathematically, to balance the budget within a decade without raising taxes. But to do so Ryan assumes deep cuts that would force millions from programs for the poor like food stamps and Medicaid and cut almost 20 percent from domestic agency budget levels assumed less than two years ago.

Ryan’s plan passed the House on a mostly party-line 221-207 vote, with 10 Republicans joining Democrats against it.

Meanwhile, the Democrat-controlled Senate debated its own proposal. A vote is expected late today or early Saturday.

The Senate cast several politically freighted tallies Thursday night, including a move by Democrats to force a vote on the Ryan budget, which was defeated 59-40, with five Republicans – including tea party stalwarts Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Mike Lee, R-Utah – joining every Democrat in opposition.

Republicans countered with a move by Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., putting Democrats on record in opposition to balancing the budget by the end of the decade. It failed on a near party-line vote.

But the Senate gave sweeping bipartisan approval to a proposal by Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., to put senators on record in favor of repealing an unpopular tax on medical devices enacted to help pay for Obama’s health care bill.

The sharp contrast over the 2014 budget and beyond came as the House cleared away unfinished fiscal business: a sweeping bill to keep Cabinet agencies running through the 2013 budget year.

The House passed the bipartisan 2013 measure by a sweeping 318-109 vote. The Senate approved the measure Wednesday.

The measure authorizes money for every Cabinet agency through Sept. 30, provides another $87 billion to fund overseas military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq and maintains a pay freeze for federal workers. Automatic spending cuts of 5 percent to domestic programs and 8 percent to the Pentagon are left in place.


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