Dueling budgets: After 3 years, House and Senate square off

Published: Friday, March 15 2013 5:45 p.m. MDT

The dome of the U.S. Capitol Building is seen as the sun sets on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, March 7, 2013.

Associated Press

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After a 3 year hiatus, the Democrats in the Senate moved a budget out of committee on Thursday on a party line vote. The Republican controlled House reciprocated the same day, also on party lines.

The two budgets head in totally opposite directions, with the House slashing entitlement spending and balancing the budget over ten years, while the Senate budget avoids deep cuts, raises taxes on the wealthy, and does not balance the budget, hoping for economic growth to close the gap.

“The Senate budget takes a very different approach than the plan proposed by House Republicans," Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray said in a statement. "Their budget doubles down on the policies the American people rejected last election. It would be devastating for the middle class and the economy, it would dismantle Medicare and the programs families depend on — and it would do all that while protecting the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations from paying their fair share. The House Republican plan is anything but balanced, and it’s anything but fair."

Despite panning the Republican effort, Murray expressed hope that a balanced, bipartisan compromise might be reached.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, came down as hard on the Democrat's proposal as Murray was on the House.

"They offer no plan, no proposal — no attempt — to reform taxes, grow the economy, reduce poverty, fix our entitlements, or that would create good-paying jobs and rising wages," Sessions said in a statement. "We know from academic studies that our debt over 90 percent of GDP destroys jobs and wages — their proposal locks these dangerous debt levels in place."

Still, Sessions was pleased and complimentary toward Murray simply for holding a budget hearing and approving a budget, something the Senate has not done for more than three years now. “You’ve allowed us to have free ability to speak out. You’ve been respectful,” Sessions said, according to a Politico report.

Analyzing the two budgets at Forbes, Howard Gleckman argued that the numbers between the two proposals are not unbridgeable. But the ideological gap, he argues, is immense.

Gleckman summarizes this House proposal with this sentence: “We owe the American people a balanced budget.” And on the Democratic side: “The highest priority…is to create the conditions for job creation, economic growth, and prosperity.”

The Democratic plan is mainly centered on what government can do, rather than on cutting it back. "Indeed," Gleckman notes, "the first half of the Senate panel’s fiscal plan is all about enhancing government programs. You’ve got to get to page 56 before the 113-page document addresses the deficit."

“The surprise when comparing the House Republicans’ budget and the Senate Democrats’ budget," wrote Ezra Klein in The Washington Post, "is just how much more conservative the Democratic effort is. I don’t mean ideologically conservative, of course. I mean conservative in the sense that the dictionary defines it: ‘disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditional ones, and to limit change.’”

Eric Schulzke writes on national politics for the Deseret News. He can be contacted at eschulzke@desnews.com.

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