WASHINGTON -- Moving on two fronts, the Republican-controlled House on Thursday voted to keep the government running for the next six months while pushing through a tea-party favored budget for next year that would shrink the government by another $4.6 trillion over the next decade.
The spending authorization on its way to the White House for President Obama's signature leaves in place $85 billion in spending cuts to the Pentagon and domestic agencies. The result will be temporary furloughs for hundreds of thousands of federal workers and contractors during the next six months and interrupted, slower or halted services and aid for many Americans.
The nonbinding GOP budget plan for 2014 and beyond calls for a balanced budget in 10 years' time and sharp cuts in safety-net programs for the poor and other domestic programs.
Thursday's developments demonstrated the split nature of this year's budget debate. Competing nonbinding budget measures by each party provide platforms for political principles; at the same time Capitol Hill leaders forged a bipartisan deal on carrying out the government's core responsibilities, in this case providing money for agencies to operate and preventing a government shutdown.
The GOP budget proposal, similar to previous plans offered by Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., demonstrates that it's possible, at least mathematically, to balance the budget within a decade without raising taxes. But to do so Ryan, his party's vice presidential nominee last year, assumes deep cuts that would force millions from programs for the poor like food stamps and Medicaid and cut almost 20 percent from domestic agency budget levels assumed less than two years ago.
Ryan's plan passed the House on a mostly party-line 221-207 vote, with 10 Republicans joining Democrats against it.
Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., was one of the 10 Republicans in the House to vote against the Ryan budget. In a statement after the vote, McKinley called the House budget "a serious plan" that "addresses important reforms that represent a step in the right direction."
But he said he voted against it because, among other reasons, the Ryan budget didn't address the value of fossil fuel research, included $716 billion in Medicare cuts, and didn't protect federal agencies and programs in northern West Virginia, including the FBI and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., voted for the Ryan budget. She said it "presented the best framework for reigning in government spending and avoiding tax increases for West Virginia families and small businesses."
Meanwhile, the Democrat-controlled Senate debated for a second day its first budget since the 2009 plan that helped Obama pass his health-care law. A vote on the Senate measure is expected late today <co Friday> or early Saturday.
The dueling House and Senate budget plans are anchored on opposite ends of the ideological spectrum in Washington, appealing to core partisans in warring GOP and Democratic tribes long gridlocked over how to attack budget deficits. The GOP plan caters to tea party forces while Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray, D-Wash., crafted a measure designed to nail down support from liberal senators like Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, who vehemently oppose cuts to safety net programs, like Medicare and Social Security.
What the Ryan and Murray budgets both fail to do is reach out to the political middle, where any possible bargain would have to be forged."At least we're moving closer to an opportunity for agreement," said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill. "I know we're worlds apart when it comes to philosophy and how we go forward."