The Free Press, Mankato, MN

March 22, 2013

Congress: How they voted: GOP budget, Democratic budget, White House tours

Thomas Voting Reports
Voterama in Congress

WASHINGTON — Here's how area members of Congress voted on major issues in the week ending March 22.


2014 REPUBLICAN BUDGET: Voting 221 for and 207 against, the House on March 21 approved a Republican budget plan (H Con Res 25) that would reach balance by fiscal 2023 through steps such as changing Medicare into a voucher program; cutting Medicaid and food stamps and converting them to block-grant programs run by the states; repealing the Dodd-Frank financial-regulation law and parts of the 2010 health law; cutting farm subsidies and slashing most discretionary spending programs other than defense.

The fiscal plan opens the door to possible changes in Social Security. For 2014, it sets federal spending at $3.53 trillion and projects a $528 billion deficit.

Authored by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., this budget bars any tax increases while cutting the top individual tax rate from 39.6 percent to 25 percent; reducing the corporate rate from 35 percent to 25 percent; cutting taxes on corporate profits earned overseas; repealing the Alternative Minimum Tax and repealing tax measures in the 2010 health law.

Ryan said he would reform the tax code to pay the nearly $6 trillion, ten-year cost of those and other tax cuts, but left it up to the Ways and Means Committee to determine how that would be done.

Scott Garrett, R-N.J., said the GOP budget reforms the Tax Code in a way that "creates jobs, increases wages and helps the American family. (It) will protect and strengthen important priorities like Medicare and national security...(and) will also reform our welfare programs, such as Medicaid, so they can actually deliver on their promise and not go bankrupt."

Henry Waxman, D-Calif., said Republicans "would end Medicare as people have known it. Rather than have a guaranteed benefit, they turn it into a voucher. There would be no guarantee that people would be able to get the services they need.... Every year, that voucher would be capped, so they would have to buy a cheaper and cheaper policy with fewer and fewer benefits."

A yes vote backed the GOP budget.

Voting yes: John Kline, R-2, Erik Paulsen, R-3, Michele Bachmann, R-6 

Voting no:  Tim Walz, D-1, Betty McCollum, D-4, Keith Ellison, D-5, Collin Peterson, D-7, Rick Nolan, D-8

2014 DEMOCRATIC BUDGET: Voting 165 for and 253 against, the House on March 20 rejected a Democratic budget that differed from the Republican plan (H Con Res 25, above) by increasing spending on programs such as education, transportation and scientific research; continuing traditional fee-for-service Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps and other safety-net programs as presently structured; levying $1.2 trillion in tax increases mainly on corporations and the wealthy and injecting $200 billion of stimulus into the economy to reduce unemployment.

This budget would gradually lower annual deficits but would take decades to reach balance.

Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., said the Democratic plan "focuses on economic growth and strengthening the middle class" while the GOP budget "imposes European-style austerity by more than doubling the size of the sequester on essential investments to help the economy grow."

Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said the Democrats' theme is "take more money from the economy; take more money from families; take more money from small businesses -- spend it in Washington and hope everything works out. It's not working out."

A yes vote backed the Democratic budget.

Voting yes: Walz, McCollum, Ellison, Nolan 

Voting no: Kline, Paulsen, Bachmann, Peterson

CONSERVATIVES' 2014 BUDGET: Voting 104 for and 132 against, members on March 20 defeated a budget authored by the Republican Study Committee, a caucus of the most conservative House members, that reached balance in four years by steps such as doubling non-defense cuts in the sequester, closing unspecified tax loopholes, opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling and requiring the Keystone pipeline between Canada and the Gulf Coast to be built.

This budget reinstated Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy; established a flatter tax code that taxpayers could choose instead of the existing one; repealed estate taxes and indexed the capital-gains rate to inflation.

Additionally, it permanently lowered the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent and, for one year, allowed U.S. corporations to repatriate profits from overseas at a 5.25 percent tax rate.

Paul Broun, R-Ga., said: "I'm amazed by the sheer ignorance of the economic disaster that our country is facing....We have to dig deeper and make real, targeted cuts, and there has to be a sense of urgency about it. Only (this) budget actually cuts our baseline spending level...."

Steve Israel, D-N.Y., said the conservatives' budget "is not about compromise, it is about ideology. It is not about common sense and solutions, it is about extremism....Let's find a balanced approach that rests on compromise and supports the middle class."

A yes vote backed the conservatives' budget.

Voting yes: None

Voting no:  Kline, Paulsen 

Not voting:  Walz, McCollum, Ellison, Bachmann, Peterson, Nolan

PROGRESSIVES' 2014 BUDGET: Voting 84 for and 327 against, the House on March 20 defeated a liberal budget sponsored by the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

With a goal of creating seven million jobs, this budget would immediately inject $544 billion into the economy for purposes such as hiring teachers, building public works and reviving neighborhoods.

Additionally, progressives would reduce military spending to 2006 levels, expand unemployment insurance, repeal the sequester's cuts in non-defense programs, add a public option to the 2010 health law and require lower, negotiated drug prices for Medicare recipients.

This budget would tax capital gains and dividends as ordinary income; raise taxes on incomes over $1 million and levy new taxes on carbon and financial transactions;

Jim McDermott, D-Wash., said: "Now is not the time for austerity. It is the time for the government to invest where the private sector won't....With lower unemployment, fewer people need public assistance and more people pay taxes. That's how you shrink the deficit. That's fiscal responsibility."

James Lankford, R-Okla., said: "Jobs do not come from additional federal spending....If you want real jobs, it has to be in the private sector. That is the only thing that can be sustained; otherwise, you are dependent year after year after year with additional taxes and additional spending."

A yes vote backed the progressive budget.

Voting yes: McCollum, Ellison, Nolan 

Voting no:  Walz, Kline, Paulsen, Bachmann, Peterson

CONGRESSIONAL BLACK CAUCUS BUDGET: Voting 105 for and 305 against, the House on March 20 defeated a fiscal blueprint authored by the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC).

This budget increased revenue by $2.7 trillion over ten years by steps such as closing corporate tax loopholes and ending preferential tax rates for capital gains and dividends.

While not reaching  balance, it achieved more deficit reduction over 10 years than recommended by the Simpson-Bowles commission.

The CBC budget canceled the sequester, launched a $500 billion jobs bill, blocked changes sought by Republicans in Medicare and Medicaid and averted the GOP's planned cuts in domestic programs.

Robert Scott, D-Va., said the CBC budget "shows that we can create jobs, invest in education, transportation and research and avoid devastating health-care cuts and achieve the 10-year Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction goal."

Tom Price, R-Ga., said this budget "never gets to balance, which means it continues to spend more money than the government takes in....We can't continue going down this road over and over and over and over."

A yes vote backed the Congressional Black Caucus budget.

Voting yes: McCollum, Ellison, Nolan 

Voting no:  Walz, Kline, Paulsen, Bachmann, Peterson



WHITE HOUSE TOURS: Voting 45 for and 54 against, the Senate on March 19 refused to fund a resumption of public tours of the White House and visitor services at national parks that have been suspended because of spending cuts in the sequester.

The money was to be shifted from a National Park Service account for preserving cultural and historical sites. The amendment was offered to a bill (HR 933), later passed, that would fund government operations for the final six months of fiscal 2013.

Tom Coburn, R-Okla., said "the National Park Service does have something to do with the White House tours....It is not a Secret Service problem, it is a national park problem."

John Reed, D-R.I., said the amendment was misdirected because White House tours are funded by the Secret Service rather than the National Park Service.

A yes vote was to restore funding for White House tours.

Voting no: Al Franken, D, Amy Klobuchar, D