House GOP offers alternative budget, with details to come

McClatchy NewspapersMarch 26, 2009 

WASHINGTON — Republicans in the House of Representatives answered President Barack Obama's challenge for a GOP alternative budget on Thursday by producing their own plan — but the document contained virtually no specifics on spending, taxes or deficit reduction.

Instead, the glossy 18-page book, "The Republican Road to Recovery," was largely a harangue against Democratic policies and a series of statements of long-held Republican principles. House Republican Leader John Boehner of Ohio promised details next week.

Obama at his Tuesday news conference had criticized Republicans, saying "we haven't seen an alternative budget out of them."

"Here it is, Mr. President," Boehner declared on Thursday.

Asked if the Republican plan would cut the deficit in half in five years, as Obama proposes, Boehner said, "It'll be better."

The House and Senate expect to vote next week on fiscal 2010 budgets, and separate votes are expected on Republican alternatives.

Since Democrats have comfortable majorities in both houses of Congress, and such budget debates are tightly controlled, the bills they've written are expected to pass easily.

Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., the top Republican on the House Budget Committee, set the tone for the Republican effort, calling the Democratic plan "so reckless, so irresponsible . . . a gusher of new spending followed by a gusher of new borrowing we cannot sustain."

Democrats would spend about $3.55 trillion next year. Obama wanted a 10.1 percent boost in nondefense discretionary spending, which includes most domestic programs. The House Democrats' version would pare that to 9.5 percent, while the Senate's would cut it to 7 percent.

Most of Obama's key initiatives, such as health care, climate change, and his "making work pay" tax credit, will be considered later this year. The House and Senate Democratic budgets require that their costs be covered by tax increases or offsetting cuts in spending elsewhere.

Democrats scoffed at the GOP plan.

"It's like being in the era of the Bush administration all over again," said Rep. John Spratt, D-S.C., the House Budget Committee chairman.

The GOP plan methodically takes the Democratic bill apart. On health care, it complains that "Democrats propose to finance nationalized health care," and says a better solution would be allowing people to shop across state lines for insurance policies.

On spending, the Republican plan lists specific objections to Democrats' plans, but proposes only that the GOP would "cut overall nondefense spending by reforming or eliminating a host of wasteful programs deemed ineffective by various government entities."

Taxes would be lower, the Republicans promise, in a "simple and fair tax code" with a 10 percent tax rate for incomes up to $100,000 and 25 percent thereafter, as well as "a generous standard deduction and personal exemption."

However, Republicans also would "allow any individual or family satisfied with their current tax structure" to pay those rates, though it would drop the two lowest brackets by 5 percent. Rates currently range from 10 percent to 35 percent.

On energy, the Republican plan would open the Arctic Coastal Plain to energy exploration, while making it easier to build new nuclear reactors.

And the party says it would help ease financial industry turmoil by discouraging bailouts and creating a climate of "certainty and economic growth."

ON THE WEB

Republican road to recovery plan"

Internal Revenue Service description of 2009 tax brackets

Congressional Budget Office budget projections

President Obama's 2010 budget outline

Concord Coalition budget analysis

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McClatchy Newspapers 2009

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