The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

March 23, 2013

Senate Democratic budget extends standoff with GOP

(Continued)

WASHINGTON —

In contrast, a rival budget approved by the GOP-run House balances the budget within 10 years without boosting taxes.

That blueprint— by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., his party’s vice presidential candidate last year — claims $4 trillion more in savings over the period than Senate Democrats by digging deeply into Medicaid, food stamps and other safety net programs for the needy. It would also transform the Medicare health care program for seniors into a voucher-like system for future recipients.

“We have presented very different visions for how our country should work and who it should work for,” said Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray, D-Wash.

The long debate got testy at times. 

As the clock ticked past 1 a.m., Murray asked senators to show respect for colleagues “who may not be able to stand as long as us, or who are elderly.” Sen. David Vitter, R-La., shot back that Republicans were not trying to delay anything, and wondered what flights or other appointments would be missed if senators voted until 7 a.m.

The loudest acclaim came toward the end, when senators rose as one to cheer a handful of Senate pages — high school students — for their work in the chamber since the morning’s opening gavel. Senators then left town for a two-week spring recess.

Congressional budgets are planning documents that leave actual changes in revenues and spending for later legislation, and this was the first the Democratic-run Senate has approved in four years. That lapse is testament to the political and mathematical contortions needed to write fiscal plans in an era of record-breaking deficits, and to the parties’ profoundly conflicting views.

Republicans said the Democratic budget wasn’t much of an accomplishment. “The only good news is that the fiscal path the Democrats laid out...won’t become law,” said Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

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