House Democrats have introduced a 2013 budget proposal to counter a Republican plan that was presented to the chamber last week, one of multiple pitches that will be up for a vote this week that are not expected to pass both the House and Senate.
Sponsored by Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, the ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee, the $3.6 trillion proposal adopts much of President Barack Obama's job-creating agenda -- including tens of billions of dollars toward near-term spending on federal infrastructure and transportation programs -- while preserving social safety net programs and investing billions in education, small business and innovation and research investments.
The budget adds $6 trillion to the federal deficit over 10 years, compared to the $6.4 trillion added under President Obama's plan. While it cuts spending by $643 billion, it would also bring in $219 billion less in revenue.
Van Hollen, who penned the bill, said the Democratic plan is a clear contrast to the Republican proposal that Democrats claim guards the interest of the nation's wealthy citizens while cutting essential services -- such as Medicare and food stamps -- for the poor and elderly.
This budget will reduce the deficit in a balanced and credible way, making difficult choices while providing investments that help create jobs now and build an even stronger economy for the future, Van Hollen said in a statement. But unlike the Republican budget -- which ends the Medicare guarantee while providing tax breaks to millionaires -- we ask the very wealthy and special interests to share responsibility for reducing the deficit.
The Democratic proposal adopts the $1.047 trillion cap on discretionary spending in 2013 that was agreed upon in last summer's debt ceiling deal. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., who authored the proposed GOP budget, came under fire for ignoring that compromise when placing a lower $1.028 trillion discretionary spending cap in the Republican plan.
Democrats Cut War Funding, Propose Millionaires Tax to Reduce Deficit
Democrats claim their plan would slash the deficit from 8.7 percent of the GDP in 2011 to under 3 percent by 2015, where it would remain for the rest of the decade. The reduction would largely come from ending nearly $1 trillion in Bush-era tax cuts on upper-income groups under the so-called Buffet Rule. The rule, named after the billionaire investor Warren Buffet, is meant to ensure the nation's highest-earning individuals do not pay a lower income tax rate than low- and middle-income families.
In comparison, the Republicans 2013 budget is expected to provide millionaires with a $150,000 tax break, with no substantial savings for middle-income earners.
In what is certainly a more controversial move, the budget eliminates future war funding for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan after 2014. Republicans, according to The Hill, say the move is duplicitous become troop draw downs in those countries mean that money likely would not have been spent anyway.
Strengthening Social Safety Net Services
While the Republican plan aims to reduce the cost of Medicare by instituting a voucher-program allowing beneficiaries to purchase private health plans, the Democratic plan preserves the current program while instituting reforms included in the Obama's administration's healthcare overhaul law.
Meanwhile, the budget maintains funding Medicaid -- the GOP plan slashes the program, which provides health care services for low-income seniors, children and people with disabilities -- protects Social Security from privatization and funds the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance program (SNAP) at current levels. Republicans have been under fire for slashing SNAP in their budget, which currently provides food aid to more than 45 million people, according to November estimates from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
In a statement, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the proposal is representative of Democratic values that are founded on principles of fairness, opportunity and prosperity for all.
Our balanced approach invests in America's priorities, protects our seniors and strengthens our middle class, she said.
Republican Proposal More Likely to Pass in House
Van Hollen's Democratic proposal is one of a number of alternatives to Ryan's highly-publicized budget. Although even Ryan's plan is not expected to pass the Democratic-led Senate, it could be approved by the House, which boasts a Republican majority.
On Monday the Congressional Progressive Caucus also released its 2013 budget, titled The Budget For All. The plan aims to cut $6.8 trillion from the federal deficit, while enacting a public option health insurance program, creating new tax brackets that institute a 45 percent rate on incomes over $1 million and instituting a financial transactions tax and a big bank tax expected to raise nearly $1 trillion in 10 years.
Like the Democratic plan, it also ends emergency war funding after 2014 and allows the Bush Tax Cuts to expire for the wealthiest two percent of Americans.
The House is expected to vote on both the Republican and Democratic plans Thursday, as well as the alternatives proposed by the Congressional Progressive Caucus, the Congressional Black Caucus and the Republican Study Committee.
CORRECTION: A previous version article said the Congressional Progressive Caucus' 2013 budget aimed to completely eliminate the federal deficit by 2021. That figure was actually included in the caucus' 2012 budget.