Late night: Senate Democrats work to pass budget calling for almost $1B in tax increases
J. Scott Applewhite, Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats neared approval of their first budget proposal in four years on Friday, calling for almost $1 billion in tax increases over the coming decade while sheltering safety net programs targeted by House Republicans. The Democrats also would reverse automatic spending cuts that are beginning to strike both the Pentagon and domestic programs.
The nonbinding but politically symbolic measure caters to party stalwarts on the liberal edge of the spectrum just as the House GOP measure is crafted to appeal to more recent tea party arrivals.
Approval of the Senate version was expected to come long after dark — after dozens of votes on amendments, many of which were offered in hopes of inflicting political damage on Democratic senators up for re-election in GOP-leaning states like Alaska and Louisiana.
Some $1 trillion in new revenue would flow to the government over the coming decade — on top of more than $600 billion in taxes on upper-income earners approved in January — and would be coupled with a net $875 billion in spending cuts. Those reductions would be generated by modest cuts to federal health care programs, domestic agencies and the Pentagon and reduced government borrowing costs. The budget proposes $100 billion in new spending for infrastructure projects and job training programs.
The president will reveal his own overdue tax-and-spending plan in two weeks, a plan that will be judged in part by whether it offers new, more politically risky proposals that could form the foundation for a bipartisan agreement between the two houses.
Senators braced for dozens of votes during a marathon session running late on Friday, with some predicting a final vote on the Democratic plan in the pre-dawn hours of Saturday. In early voting Friday morning, Democrats rejected the latest attempt to repeal Obama's landmark health care law by a strictly party-line vote.
The Senate has already taken several politically freighted votes, including a move by Democrats to force a vote on the Paul Ryan House budget, which was rejected by a 59-40 vote Thursday night, with five Republicans joining every Democratic senator 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.
Additional votes on Friday could feature forays into off-topic subjects like super-sized soft drinks, domestic drone strikes, handguns and abortion — in addition to the more traditional subjects of taxes, spending and debt.
It all concerned a largely symbolic measure known as a budget resolution, not binding legislation that could be sent to the president to become law. The Senate budget measure and the starkly different version passed by the House on Thursday seek to set parameters for follow-up legislation on taxes and spending.
The dueling House and Senate budget plans are anchored on opposite ends of the ideological spectrum in Washington. No Democrats voted for the House budget, and not a single Republican will vote for the Senate plan, written by new Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray, D-Wash. The GOP plan caters to tea party forces, while Murray was forced to reach out to liberals, rather than revive proposals such as increasing out-of-pocket Medicare costs for better off beneficiaries that were discussed when she co-chaired a failed 2011 deficit "supercommittee."
While the House GOP plan seeks $4.6 trillion in spending cuts over 10 years on top of the $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts in the same timeframe. Murray's plan promises to replace the $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts, required under a hard-fought 2011 budget pact because of the failure of Washington follow up that deal with another deficit-cutting plan. She notes that they were never intended to take effect and were instead aimed at forcing Republicans and Democrats into a deal. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office warns the $85 billion in cuts set to strike the economy this year could cost 750,000 jobs.
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