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"Building a Better America"cover

The budget blueprint proposed by House Republicans, titled "Building a Better America," would cut funding for social programs by more than $200 billion. (Image: House Budget Blueprint)

GOP's Deja Vu Budget Slashes Social Programs to Fund Tax Cuts for Rich

House GOP budget blueprint would boost military spending and give tax cuts to the wealthy while slashing nation's safety net

Jessica Corbett

House Republicans are under fire for their new 10-year budget blueprint, released Tuesday, that proposes increasing military spending by $72.4 billion while slashing more than $200 billion from social programs.

The proposed budget resolution ("Building a Better America"), delayed for weeks by party infighting, also paves a path for Republicans to rewrite the tax code. The resolution's tax reform goals include consolidating the existing individual income tax brackets and reducing the corporate tax rate. It would also enable U.S.-based businesses to pay little or no taxes on foreign profits.

To put forth a plan that Republicans claim would balance the budget within 10 years, and accounts for their desire to give massive tax cuts to the wealthy, the blueprint targets what it calls "duplicative anti-poverty programs"—federal programs that help provide poor citizens with health care, housing, food aid, and other social services—with $203 billion in budget cuts by 2027.

Frank Clemente, executive director of Americans for Tax Fairness, characterized the spending cuts and tax goals as beneficial to big businesses, and contrary to the desires of the general public.

"Americans don't want more tax breaks and loopholes for Wall Street while the rest of us foot the bill," said Clemente. "Americans don't want a budget that gives huge tax cuts for millionaires paid for by slashing Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security. Americans would rather invest in public education and infrastructure, such as roads, bridges, and broadband access, instead of cutting corporate taxes."

His statements align with recent public polling by the Pew Research Center, which earlier this year found the majority of Democrats and Republicans disagree with cuts to federal spending on social programs—including Social Security, health care, infrastructure improvements, and education.

The proposed cuts were also condemned by groups that support these essential social programs.

The House's proposed budget resolution would also require federal employees to pay more for their retirement plans.

"The budget is a slap in the face to all of the workers who care for our veterans, guard our borders, support our military and keep our air and water clean," said J. David Cox Sr., president of the American Federation of Government Employees, the union that represents more than 600,000 federal employees. "Taking away retirement income from our law enforcement officers, many of whom are veterans, is particularly venomous."

The proposed cuts to social programs are "a direct rebuke" of President Donald Trump's campaign promises, the New York Times noted. While campaigning for office, Trump promised: "I'm not going to cut Social Security like every other Republican and I'm not going to cut Medicare or Medicaid."

The House's budget resolution, authored by Tennessee Republican and House Budget Committee Chair Diane Black, will endure a committee markup session Wednesday morning, but without the 218 votes it needs to pass the House, floor action ahead of the August recess seems unlikely.

Last year, the budget committee's resolution never even made it to the floor, but this year there's added pressure, because Republicans need to pass the budget resolution to establish the "reconciliation" process for their desired tax code reform. 

Reconciliation is a fast-track legislative process that limits debate time, and allows tax and mandatory spending bills to pass with a simple majority—meaning Republicans could rewrite tax rules without any support from Democrats. To use this process, the House and Senate would have to pass the same budget resolution with reconciliation instructions included.

However, Republican infighting during failed efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act indicates that the new House spending plan, a product of regular order budgeting, is unlikely to garner the support it needs to pass—with some Republicans worried how their constituents would react to slashing funds for social programs, and House Freedom Caucus members, who threatened to withhold support if the budget didn't include even crueler cuts to welfare programs.

If Republicans are hellbent on implementing tax reforms through the reconciliation process, they may be forced to scrap the House's budget blueprint in favor of a shell budget—which, as Roll Call explained, is a "barebones" plan that outlines topline spending limits and reconciliation instructions for the tax-writing committees, but forgoes "the hundreds of pages of aspirational policy ideas" included in regular order budgets like the plan proposed Tuesday.

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