You balance your budget and live within your means. Washington should do the same. The House GOP budget balances in less than 10 years without raising or creating taxes.–Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY)
Furthermore, this budget relies on a host of smoke and mirrors accounting gimmicks and rosy economic forecasting to make it appear as if it balances in ten years. I suspect that if a private accountant tried to pull some of the stunts used in this budget, they’d lose their credentials or be thrown in prison.–Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC)
Rep. Michael Capuano (D-MA) explains his view of Fiscal Year 2016 Budget issues:
This week the House considered H. Con. Res. 27, “establishing the budget for the United States Government for fiscal year 2016 and setting forth appropriate budgetary levels for fiscal year 2017 through 2025”. H. Con. Res. 27 was prepared by the House Budget Committee and cuts spending by $5.5 trillion over ten years. Non-defense spending is slashed by $759 billion below what was established as a result of sequestration and the Budget Control Act. Once again the burden of deficit reduction is not shared equally, with defense spending increasing by $36 billion.
As in previous Republican budgets, this one makes changes to Medicare, turning it into a voucher program and slashing more that $900 billion by limiting coverage for seniors. This will result in increased out-of-pocket costs for them.
House Republican leadership never seems to miss an opportunity to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and this legislation is no different. It eliminates the ACA and offers no alternative coverage for the more than 16 million people who now have health insurance as a result of the law. Because H. Con. Res. 27 repeals the ACA in its entirety, many important provisions will disappear, such as preventing insurance companies from denying coverage based on a pre-existing condition.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is cut by $125 billion. SNAP is also turned into a block grant program and the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) points out that states can divert this money to other programs. Tax cuts are also included in this budget. The resolution lowers top tax rates to 25% for both individuals and businesses. The result, according to reviews by the Tax Policy Center and Citizens for Tax Justice, is a tax break of roughly $200,000 for the wealthiest Americans. Tax credits designed to help the middle class, such as the child tax credit, are reduced.
H. Con. Res. 27 contains many more troubling provisions, such as:
- Cuts the Pell Grant by $89 billion and increases the cost of other student loan programs all while college costs continue to rise;
- Negatively impacts elementary and secondary education funding in FY 2016 and beyond, placing per pupil spending at its lowest levels in 15 years;
- Cuts funding for scientific research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and National Science Foundation (NSF); these shortsighted reductions not only result in less scientific discovery, they also mean the loss of jobs;
- At a time when infrastructure nationwide is in need of significant investment, this resolution cuts transportation funding by almost 20%. This approach fails to recognize the reality that spending on infrastructure creates jobs and acts as a stimulus to the economy;
H. Con. Res. 27 also does away with many of the financial reforms established by Dodd-Frank. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has a thoughtful analysis of the budget, which you may view here: http://www.cbpp.org/cms/?fa=view&id=5289
H. Con. Res. 27 passed (228-199). Seventeen dissident Republicans voted NAY; Rep. Reed voted YEA.
Before the House voted on the Republican Budget proposal, several alternative budgets were considered. First, a proposal submitted by the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), of which I am a member, was considered. The CPC budget closes corporate tax loopholes and expands some tax credits, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). It includes targeted investments designed to boost the economy such as in transportation and scientific research. The CPC budget proposal contains some provisions I submitted, including recommendations to increase funding for NIH and NSF. It maintains the ACA and rejects Republican efforts to transform Medicare into a voucher program. Overall, it calls for an investment of close to $2 trillion in nondefense spending over ten years. Ultimately, this budget proposal will reduce the deficit by more than $3 trillion over ten years. You may read more about the CPC budget here: http://cpc.grijalva.house.gov/better-off-budget/
The CPC budget did not pass (96-330). Rep. Reed voted NAY.
The House also considered a budget proposal offered by the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC). This proposal invests in transportation, education, research funding and prioritizes job creation. The CBC proposal reduces the deficit by almost $2 trillion over ten years by targeting investment and making some changes to the tax system. It also increases the minimum wage. I voted YES on this proposal. You may read more about the CBC budget here: https://cbc-butterfield.house.gov/sites/congressionalblackcaucus.house.gov/files/CBC%20FY%202016%20Budget%20Breakdown%20%28FINAL%29.pdf
The CBC budget did not pass (120-306). Rep. Reed voted NAY.
The Republican Study Committee also submitted a budget proposal, which is even more extreme that the Republican budget. It cuts spending by over $7 trillion in ten years, while increasing defense spending. It too repeals the ACA and block grants the SNAP program. It raises the retirement age for both Medicare (to 67) and Social Security (to 70). The Republican Study Committee budget also reduces federal transportation spending. You may read more about the Republican Study Committee budget here: http://rsc.flores.house.gov/uploadedfiles/the_budget.pdf
The RSC proposal did not pass (132-294). Rep. Reed voted NAY.
Finally, the House considered the Democratic Alternative to H. Con. Res. 27. It closes corporate tax loopholes and enhances some tax credits like the American Opportunity Tax Credit. It increases funding for education, scientific research and transportation infrastructure. It preserves the ACA and Medicare. It increases veterans funding and advances immigration reform. The Democratic alternative also rejects block granting SNAP, enhances the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program. You may read more about the Democratic Alternative here: http://democrats.budget.house.gov/committee-report/economic-opportunity-americans-working-hard-get-ahead-2016-house-democratic-budget
The Democratic Alternative did not pass (160-264). Rep. Reed voted NAY.
Yesterday the House considered H.R. 2, the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015. This legislation updates the Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR). The formula has been in place since 1997 as a way to manage payments to doctors for patients with Medicare coverage. It has not worked as intended so for almost 20 years Congress has passed a series of temporary patches and a long term agreement has been elusive. H.R. 2 is a permanent fix to this problem. H.R. 2 does more than address the SGR. It extends the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for two years and increases community health center (CHC) funding by more than $7 billion over two years. Although the House bill passed with significant bipartisan support, I’d like to clarify one of the concerns raised by some about this bill. There is no change whatsoever to current law regarding federal funding for abortions. Since the 1970’s federal funding for abortion services has not been permitted, except in cases of rape, incest or grave danger to the life of the mother. This provision, known as the Hyde Amendment, has been included in appropriations bills for almost 40 years. It is not a permanent measure; it is added every year and expires at the end of the fiscal year. That is exactly how this issue is treated in H.R. 2; the provision expires when the CHC funding expires. The co-chairs of the House Pro-Choice Caucus, Reps. Louise Slaughter and Diana DeGette urged passage of H.R. 2 and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi worked with Speaker John Boehner to draft H.R. 2.
H.R. 2 passed (392-37). Rep. Reed voted YEA.
The House budget, H.R. 27, still must be reconciled with the Senate. The budget isn’t a law which needs to be signed by the President. Instead it is a guide for appropriations bills to follow which the President may oppose.
© William Hungerford – March 2015