House Democrats Offer Alternative to ‘Reckless’ GOP Budget

Posted March 19, 2003 at 5:12pm

Calling the Republican budget plan “reckless” and “irresponsible,” House Democrats unveiled a counterproposal Wednesday afternoon.

“Tomorrow on the House floor, we will debate a budget put forward by the House Republicans that takes the president’s blueprint and by every measure makes it demonstrably worse,” Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said. “It has been opposed by the Farm Bureau, by the Disabled Veterans of America and by many other groups.”

The Democratic leadership blasted the budget resolution for cutting veterans’ benefits and health care, underfunding environmental programs, short-changing education, and “robbing Peter” — by ordering $372 billion to be cut from mandatory spending programs such as Medicare and Medicaid — “to pay Paul,” through a new Medicare prescription drug program.

The Democratic plan’s architect, Rep. John Spratt (S.C.), the ranking member on the Budget Committee, said that once Members understood that the Republican plan only puts $28 billion in additional money toward its $400 billion drug plan, moderate Republicans objected too.

“They can’t pass it through their own Conference,” Spratt said.

To that end, Republican budget writers were tweaking the resolution Wednesday night in hope of appeasing moderates before Wednesday’s vote. (See Thursday’s Roll Call for the full story.)

The Democrats’ alternative incorporates their $136 billion stimulus plan and throws out President Bush’s proposed $726 billion economic growth and tax-cut package.

“It is simply unconscionable to cling to a tax cut for the wealthy, while our economy and our families are preparing for war,” House Democratic Caucus Chairman Bob Menendez (N.J.) said.

They charged that the current GOP plan would cut $30 billion from veterans’ health care and benefits.

That these cuts are proposed at a time when “we’re exposing more men and women to harm is incomprehensible to me,” Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) said.

Pelosi also slammed the Republican budget for not doing enough to jump-start the faltering economy.

“Instead of offering a budget that creates jobs, the House Republican budget incorporates the Bush tax-cut plan, which the Economic Policy Institute says would cause a net loss of 750,000 jobs by 2013,” Pelosi said. “The nation has already lost 2.5 million private-sector jobs since President Bush took office.”

Finally, Spratt said the Democratic plan acknowledges the impending war with Iraq will throw the budget for a loop; therefore, unlike the Republican plan that leaves no room for war, the Democrats plan has a $54 billion “contingency” fund, which could be used for emergencies.