WASHINGTON -- The House on Thursday adopted a compromise GOP budget that promises to speed repeal of President Barack Obama's health care law while calling for a major budget increase for the Pentagon.
The 226-197 vote sends the budget plan to the Senate for a vote next week.
Of the four Republican representatives from Arkansas, French Hill, Bruce Westerman and Steve Womack voted in favor. Rep. Rick Crawford, who voted against the measure, has said previously that he opposed it because "nonbinding budget resolutions are ineffective without a permanent law like a balanced budget amendment or spending limitation amendment."
The nonbinding agreement promises to balance the budget in nine years with more than $5 trillion in spending cuts, though Republicans make clear they aren't interested in actually imposing contentious cuts to programs like Medicare, food stamps, Pell Grants or the traditional Medicaid program with follow-up legislation.
Instead, the House-Senate budget framework increases spending in the near term by padding war accounts by almost $40 billion next year. And Senate Republicans skittish over politically dangerous cuts to Medicare blocked a House move that called for giving subsidies to future retirees to purchase health insurance on the open market instead of a guaranteed package of Medicare coverage.
Under Washington's arcane budget process, lawmakers first adopt a budget that's essentially a visionary document and follow it up with binding legislation to set agency budgets, cut or raise taxes, and make changes to so-called mandatory programs like Medicare and food stamps, whose budgets run as if on autopilot.
Republicans tout the long-term economic benefits of a balanced budget and say it's better to tackle the long-term financial problems of programs like Medicare and Medicaid sooner rather than later.
Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price, R-Ga., said the GOP plan "will not only get Washington's fiscal house in order but pave the way for stronger economic growth, more jobs and more opportunity. It invests in our nation's priorities, ensures a strong national defense and saves and strengthens and protects important programs like Medicare and Social Security."
But Democrats said the GOP plan unfairly targets the middle class and the poor while leaving in place lucrative tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy.
"The Republican budget moves this country in exactly the wrong direction," said Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination. "At a time of massive wealth and income inequality, it gives huge tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires while making devastating cuts to education, Medicare, affordable housing and prescription drug coverage."
This year, Republicans are focused mostly on finally delivering legislation to Obama that would repeal the bulk of his signature health care law.
Successful action on Thursday's budget plan likely will permit the health care repeal to advance through the Senate without threat of a Democratic filibuster. Obama has said that he would veto the measure, which is scheduled to advance by late July.
While assuming expiration of health insurance subsidies and repeal of the expansion of Medicaid coverage under the health care law, the budget measure still relies on about $2 trillion worth of cuts to health care providers and tax increases enacted under the 2010 law to promise balance over the coming decade.
"That leaves people's heads spinning and it means the budget is not in balance," said Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.
Separately, the House moved ahead on spending bills for the departments of Veterans Affairs and Energy. Both measures face veto threats because they fall short of Obama's budget request, even as Republicans are skirting next year's budget limits on the Pentagon by $38 billion by padding off-budget war accounts.
A nearly $612 billion defense policy bill is headed to the House floor.
Provisions of the bill, which will be taken up by the full House next month, would make it harder for Obama to make good on a campaign promise to close the military prison for terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
It also calls for giving one-quarter of the $715 million to train and equip the Iraqi army directly to Sunni and Kurdish fighters, which Iraq and the Obama administration oppose.
Other contentious provisions in the bill include one authorizing $200 million to help arm Ukrainian forces fighting Russian-backed separatists and one that would block the Interior Department from protecting the greater sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act. The Army said doing so could hamper training operations at U.S. military facilities in the West.
Obama insists he'll block Republicans from boosting the Defense Department's budget unless they agree to relief for domestic programs as well. The Pentagon and domestic agencies are being hit by automatic spending cuts known as sequestration, the result of Washington's failure to come up with enough deficit savings to replace them.
The GOP budget also promises cuts to domestic agency operating budgets that are passed by Congress each year that are deeper than the levels required under sequestration. Such budgets would be cut by about $500 billion over 10 years.
Information for this article was contributed by Deb Riechmann of The Associated Press.
A Section on 05/01/2015
Print Headline: House passes compromise GOP budget