In a vote that solidifies the Republican party's economic platform heading into the 2012 election, the House voted on Thursday to reverse mandated cuts to the Pentagon by slashing social assistance programs that largely benefit poor Americans.
Led by budget architect Paul Ryan, Republicans have been fighting to stave off a 10 percent reduction in military spending mandated by the collapse last year of the so-called super committee tasked with slimming the deficit by $1.2 trillion, distributed between military and domestic spending. Congress created the supercommittee as a solution to last summer's bitter standoff over voting to raise the nation's debt limit.
Thursday's largely party-line vote sought to swap cuts to social programs for the impending installment of about $110 billion in Pentagon cuts.
The legislation would cut $23.5 billion from Medicaid in addition to billions from hospitals for low-income and uninsured Americans and children's health programs, while eliminating a preventive care fund established by the 2010 health care law. It would pare back $36 billion in spending on food stamps by lowering benefits and making it more difficult to be eligible for nutritional assistance.
The Senate is all but certain to reject the bill, making it significant mostly as a statement of partisan principle. Not a single Democrat voted for the bill, although 16 Republicans deviated from the party line and voted against it. The White House said the bill would fail the test of fairness and shared responsibility and vowed that President Obama would veto it.
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Rep. Ryan, who chairs the House Budget Committee, cited the need to grow the economy as an impetus for the legislation. Presumptive nominee Mitt Romney did not explicitly back the bill, but he has been effusive in praising a budget blueprint, authored by Ryan, that painted in broad strokes what Thursday's bill offers in more detail.
President Obama is trying to force $500 billion in additional defense budget cuts that his own defense secretary has called 'devastating' to our national security, Romney campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul told the New York Times. The president should take the lead in identifying reductions elsewhere in the budget to avoid these cuts, not threaten to veto responsible efforts to do so.
Obama has taken aim at Ryan's budget on the campaign trail, contending that it would disproportionately favor the wealthy while damaging those who benefit from social programs and stifle economic growth by cutting investments in health care, education and research.
Disguised as deficit reduction plan, it's really an attempt to impose a radical vision on our country, Obama said during a speech in early April. It's nothing but thinly veiled social Darwinism.