House budget blueprint boosts military, cuts food stamps

Wednesday, July 19, 2017
A U.S. Capitol Police officer gives a warning through a bullhorn to a group of black ministers gathered to protest on Capitol Hill in Washington, demanding Congress reject the "immoral" budget and the health-care bill.
Manuel Balce Ceneta ~ Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- House Republicans on Tuesday unveiled a budget that proposes trillions of dollars in cuts to the social safety net and other domestic programs while boosting military spending, a blueprint that elicited criticism from conservatives and moderates.

The GOP plan, written by budget chairman Diane Black, R-Tenn., is critical to GOP hopes to deliver on one of President Donald Trump's top priorities -- a Republican-only effort to overhaul the tax code.

Unclear, however, is whether GOP leaders can get the budget measure through the House. Conservatives want a larger package of spending cuts to accompany this fall's tax overhaul bill, while moderates are concerned cuts to programs such as food stamps could go too far.

Black announced a committee vote for today, but action by the entire House could be delayed by the ongoing quarrel between the GOP's factions.

Medicare is the second-largest mandatory program after Social Security, and the House GOP plan again proposes to turn Medicare into a voucher-like program in which future retirees would receive a fixed benefit to purchase health insurance on the open market.

Republicans have proposed the idea each year since taking back the House in 2011, but they never have tried to implement it -- and that's not going to change now, even with a Republican as president. Trump opposes the idea.

The plan, in theory at least, promises to balance the budget through unprecedented and politically unworkable cuts across the budget. It calls for turning this year's projected $700 billion or so deficit into a tiny $9 billion surplus by 2027. It would do so by slashing $5.4 trillion over the coming decade, including almost $500 billion from Medicare, $1.5 trillion from Medicaid and the Obama health law, along with cuts to benefits such as federal employee pensions, food stamps, and tax credits for the working poor.

"The status quo is unsustainable. A mounting national debt and lackluster economic growth will limit opportunity for people all across the country," Black said. "But we don't have to accept this reality. We can move forward with an optimistic vision for the future and this budget is the first step in that process. This is the moment to get real results for the American people. The time for talking is over; now is the time for action."

But in the immediate future, the GOP measure is a budget-buster. It would add almost $30 billion to Trump's $668 billion request for national defense, which exceeds an existing "cap" on spending by $54 billion.

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