WASHINGTON — The Senate gave final approval Tuesday to the first joint congressional budget plan in six years, ratifying a 10-year blueprint that would cut spending by $5.3 trillion, overhaul programs for the poor, repeal President Obama’s health care law and ostensibly produce a balanced budget in less than a decade.
Along party lines, the Senate passed the nonbinding blueprint 51 to 48, with only two Republicans voting no, Senators Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas. Both are candidates for the Republican presidential nomination who say the budget plan does not go far enough to shrink the government and cut spending.
Despite the broad aspirations of this budget plan, it appeared moribund even before its final passage. For the plan to take effect, Republican committee chairmen would have to draft legislation that would impose the prescribed cuts. But they have made little effort to do so, and committee leaders in both parties are already calling for new negotiations on a more bipartisan approach.
“It’s going to keep us very busy over the next few weeks,” said Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee and chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. “We’ll see what comes of it.” His committee is now supposed to draft legislation to repeal the health care law, turn Medicaid into block grants to the states and begin converting Medicare into a program that offers the elderly assistance to buy private health insurance.
But even some Republicans who voted for the budget are counting on its prescriptions to fade away. Next week, the House Appropriations Committee will draft the annual bill to finance transportation and housing programs, and then will turn in June to the bill to pay for worker training, education and health programs. Lawmakers expect at least one of them to fail on the House floor, forcing budget talks to resume again, this time with Mr. Obama at the table.
“With the numbers we’re having to appropriate to, I’m not sure we can pass these bills,” said Representative Harold Rogers of Kentucky, the House Appropriations Committee chairman. He added, “I think there’s a deal to be had.”
Senate Republicans made little of the policies prescribed by their new budget and much of the numbers, which they say show a federal deficit finally disappearing for the first time since 2001. To get there, the budget calls for $4.2 trillion in cuts to benefit programs like Medicare, Medicaid and food stamps over 10 years. Domestic programs at Congress’s annual discretion would be cut by $496 billion below the already tight limits imposed by the Budget Control Act of 2011.
Senator John Thune, Republican of South Dakota, characterized Tuesday’s action as a “historic” step toward a balanced budget.
Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, conceded that living within the budget’s strict spending caps would be difficult, but he said, “We’re not going to wave the white flag on the day we passed a budget agreement.”
Even with the plan’s cuts, the deficit disappears only because of faster economic growth that Republicans assume would be produced by the austerity. This theory, known as “dynamic scoring,” would generate $124 billion over 10 years, according to the budget calculus.
Jesus. “Dynamic Scoring” is an even bigger load of horse shit than “Trickle Down” which is a failure by all real, actual, mathematics-based metrics.