House Democrats Unveil Budget Matching Obama's Tax Increases

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Democrats Monday unveiled a $3.7 trillion budget plan for next year that mirrors President Barack Obama's call for $1.8 trillion in tax increases on wealthier people and corporations over the coming decade. But it would add almost $6 trillion to the national debt over that time.

         The plan by Maryland Democratic Rep. Chris Van Hollen rejects deep cuts proposed by Republicans to social safety net programs and would keep the health care law intact.

         The plan calls for a wave of new spending for infrastructure like roads and bridges and additional funding for education and medical research. It would make modest curbs on the rapid growth of the popular Medicare program. As a result, deficits would grow from a projected $378 billion next year to $717 billion in 2025. The national debt would grow from $19 trillion to more than $25 trillion over 10 years.

         The Democratic plan has no chance of being adopted during House debate this week but draws a contrast between the competing fiscal priorities of the two parties. The GOP measure manages to project balance but promises unrealistic cuts to domestic programs like transportation to do so. It also would leave in place revenues consistent with keeping more than $1 trillion in tax increases from so-called "Obamacare" in place.

         The House will debate several different budget plans this week.

         GOP leaders say they will amend the budget to add $38 billion more in funding for overseas military and diplomatic accounts to the $58 billion requested by Obama. They will have to overcome opposition from deficit hawks who sought to hold the line against new spending that would increase next year's projected deficit.

         In the Senate, Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. won approval of a plan to add $38 billion in additional war funding as a way to try to get around binding budget caps on the Pentagon. But the measure also contains language that leaves the money vulnerable to a procedural challenge that would require a 60-vote supermajority of the Senate's 100 members to waive. Democrats argue that means Graham's move amounts to a pyrrhic victory on defense spending.

         Meanwhile, a group of GOP conservatives released a budget plan in hopes of balancing the budget within six years instead of the nine years envisioned by a measure approved by the Budget Committee last week. It relies on deeper cuts to attack red ink.

         The Republican Study Committee proposal, which will be voted on later in the week by the full House, includes savings of $184 billion from Social Security, in part by holding down annual cost of living increases in benefits. It calls for gradually raising the age of eligibility of Medicare to 67 from its current 65, and envisions other savings from other benefit programs that exceed House Budget Committee proposals.

         Aides declined to say how much would be cut from each program.

         Capitol Hill's budget process can be convoluted. Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., sought to simplify it by likening it to a March basketball bracket in which GOP-backed teams like "Big Oil" and "Special Interests" won victories over senior citizens and clean energy companies.

         – by AP Reporter Andrew Taylor



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