10 Things to Know About the Senate Democrats’ Budget
1. The Senate Democratic budget purports achieve a $1.85 trillion worth of deficit reduction over the next 10 years through spending cuts and revenues raised through tax code reform. That is in addition to the $2.4 trillion in deficit reduction called for in current law.
2. The budget includes instructions for the Senate Finance Committee to submit a tax reform plan by Oct. 1 that raises $975 billion. Though Democrats would prefer this revenue be used for deficit reduction, the instructions do not explicitly preclude using that revenue to reduce tax rates, a move Republicans support.
3. The budget calls for $975 billion in deficit reduction through spending cuts and interest savings, including $240 billion in defense cuts and $493 billion in domestic spending cuts. Those domestic cuts include $265 billion in Medicare savings and $10 billion in Medicaid savings with the caveat that none of those cuts can affect beneficiaries.
4. Democrats say one of their top goals is to replace the sequester, the automatic spending cuts triggered by the failure of Congress to craft a grand bargain. And they appear to hope to do that through tax reform and targeted cuts to entitlements and other domestic programs.
5. Because the House and Senate likely will not agree on a budget, the rumored turf war between the Budget and Finance committees is likely moot. The loose tax instructions will not go into effect if the plan is passed by only one chamber.
6. Democrats frame their budget as a rebuttal to House Budget Chairman Paul D. Ryan’s plan, which the Wisconsin Republican revealed Tuesday. Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., on Wednesday attacked the GOP plan, saying it “would shred the safety net that has offered a hand up to millions of families across America, including my own, and we reject that approach.” Expect more of that on the floor next week.
7. Though the budget calls for $275 billion in overall mandatory health care savings, it does not specify where those cuts should be made, only that cuts should not affect beneficiaries and that overall, any changes made anywhere in the budget should not affect the middle class.
8. The Budget Committee is likely to approve the framework this week, with a lengthy floor vote-a-rama next week. A budget resolution is privileged and needs only 51 votes to pass. Leadership aides say they are confident they have the votes, even though there is some division among Democrats.
9. Expect some intrigue regarding GOP amendments both in committee and on the floor. Amendments on the floor in particular tend to be political in nature. In 2009, when the Senate last did a vote-a-rama, an amendment popped up to kill earmarks for Berkeley, Calif., and transfer that money to the Defense Department as well as one to change the definition of “targeted low-income child” to “include the unborn child from the moment of conception.”
10. Though budgets do not have the force of law, Senate Democrats believe they are at least taking away the GOP talking point that they haven’t done one in four years. So there’s that.