House Democrats Unveil Alternative Budget Proposal
By John King/CNN
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, June 4) -- Hoping to exacerbate tensions within the Republican ranks, House Democrats Thursday unveiled an alternative budget proposal that mirrors the approach favored by Senate Budget Committee Chairman Pete Domenici (R-N.M.)
House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.) said, "Our budget rejects the misguided priorities of this Republican slash and burn budget and comes up with a common-sense alternative."
The new Democratic proposal is a middle-of-the-road document that also embraces most of President Bill Clinton's budget priorities, including a White House proposal to reduce class size in early grades by hiring more teachers and Clinton's controversial proposal to allow Americans from age 55 through 64 to buy into the Medicare program.
Unlike the White House budget, however, the House Democratic plan does not count on money from a tobacco settlement to fund its programs.
The House budget debate is scheduled to begin Thursday afternoon. Republican leaders worked into the night Wednesday to revise their own budget proposal to deal with grumbling from GOP moderates.
According to GOP sources, Republicans deleted $10 billion in proposed Medicare cuts that GOP moderates complained would be portrayed by Democrats as mean-spirited during this year's elections. Instead, that money would be cut from welfare spending.
Republicans also were drafting a rule for the budget debate allowing projected surplus funds to be used for tax cuts.
Gephardt criticized House Budget Committee Chairman John Kasich's budget, saying it "steers us into a dead end where American families fend for themselves and are at the mercy of the global marketplace. They want to withdraw from our commitments to education, health care, and the environment - key areas critical to the future of our country and the prosperity of our people."
President Bill Clinton touched on the budget battle in a speech to the Democratic Leadership Council, but did not deliver the detailed critique of
the House GOP proposal that aides had promised.
Clinton did, however, allude to GOP plans for major tax cuts this year, saying any debate over major tax cuts should be put on hold until Social Security's financial footing was strengthened.
"So the first thing I would say is, we have to maintain fiscal discipline. We shouldn't spend the surplus before it materializes, and we shouldn't spend a penny of it until we have secured Social Security for the 21st century, and we ought to pass the reform in early 1999," Clinton said.
According to Democratic leadership aides, the House Democratic proposal includes $30 billion in targeted tax cuts, including:
- $2 billion for tax provisions of the so-called "Patient Bill of Rights."
- $3 billion for school construction and modernization initiatives.
- $5 billion for new child care tax incentives.
- $4 billion for reductions in the so-called "marriage penalty" paid by two-earner households; this is a more modest reduction than the tax cut House Republicans are making a centerpiece of their budget proposal.
The House Democratic budget also would increase these domestic spending programs:
CNN's Ann Curley contributed to this report.
- $3.8 billion to reduce class sizes by hiring 75,000 new teachers.
- $2.4 billion for the Medicare buy-in program.
- $1.2 billion for child care programs (roughly 80 percent of what Clinton proposed)
- $2 billion in new agriculture spending, including money to change the welfare reform law so that legal immigrants are eligible for food stamps.