A Wide Gap Between House, Senate Budget Blueprints

A Wide Gap Between House, Senate Budget Blueprints

Lawmakers who are marking up fiscal 2014 budget resolutions this week say they hope to reach a compromise on spending and taxes. But although there is some common ground in their plans, the differences are dramatic.

The House GOP proposal written by Budget Chairman Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., aims to reduce the deficit by $4.6 trillion over a 10-year period beginning in 2014.

The Senate Democrats’ plan introduced Wednesday by Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray has less ambitious deficit-reduction goals. Compared to the GOP plan, it appears the Senate plan would cut the deficit by between $600 billion and $700 billion between 2014 and 2023.

Murray, D-Wash., said her plan would reduce the deficit by $1.85 trillion over a decade. But in her calculation, she includes a combination of spending cuts and revenue increases that she proposes to replace the $1.2 trillion, nine-year sequester. The budget resolution would add something over $600 billion in additional deficit reduction to the cuts and revenue increases she proposes to replace the sequester.

Ryan’s plan, by contrast, recommends more than $4 trillion in spending cuts on top of the deficit reduction achieved by the sequester.

Unlike the GOP plan, which would get all its deficit reduction from spending cuts, the Senate plan adopts what Democrats call a balanced approach, with $975 billion of the deficit reduction coming from revenue increases and $975 billion from spending cuts.

“There are no sacred cows,” Murray said. “We put everything on the table.” The last time the Senate voted on a Democratic budget resolution was 2009.

Yet both plans are expected to start with the same legally required discretionary spending limit — an estimated $966 billion — for fiscal 2014, which begins Oct. 1. That is what Congress would be allowed to spend on defense and discretionary domestic programs, after the sequester reduction.

Senate Democrats, however, want to raise discretionary spending to $1.058 trillion in fiscal 2014, the level specified in the 2011 debt limit law before the sequester. They would do this by replacing the sequester with an even mix of other spending cuts and revenue from ending certain tax breaks, allowing discretionary spending to rise in fiscal 2014 and succeeding years.

Both plans would restrain discretionary spending — basically government operating expenses — over the next 10 years.

Ryan’s plan proposes lowering overall discretionary spending caps to the levels where they would be after being lowered by sequester. However, the GOP plan takes all the sequester cuts out of domestic spending, leaving defense untouched by the automatic cuts.

Murray’s budget reduces spending on defense and discretionary programs starting in fiscal 2015, by lowering the caps below the pre-sequester level specified in the debt limit law. But overall, the Democratic plan would not lower discretionary spending as much as the GOP proposal.

Over the next decade, the Democratic resolution would propose $240 billion in defense cuts, $142 billion in non-defense discretionary cuts, and $76 billion in other mandatory cuts, compared to the path spending would otherwise take. The plan claims $242 billion in savings from reduced interest payments.

Ryan’s budget resolution largely revives the plans he has introduced in the previous two years that became guideposts for GOP priorities. Last year’s budget resolution approved by the House also was a lightning rod for Democratic criticism during the election.

Under the Murray plan, the deficit by the end of the 10-year window would remain at $566 billion but that would be 2.2 percent of GDP compared to the 5.6 percent of GDP of the 2013 deficit, according to a summary of the budget resolution.

Revenue under the Democratic plan would total $41.164 trillion from 2014 to 2023 compared to $40.241 trillion collected under the Ryan plan — a 2.3 percent difference.

The Democratic plan spends almost $5 trillion more than the GOP proposal during the period — $46.362 trillion compared to the GOP’s $41.466 trillion.

The Democratic resolution also would call for $100 billion in new stimulus funds: $50 billion for programs similar to President Barack Obama’s “Fix-It-First” proposal that would make infrastructure investments, $20 billion for school infrastructure spending, $10 billion for an infrastructure bank, $10 billion for other infrastructure investments like waterway dredging and $10 billion for worker training.

The House Budget Committee planned to complete the mark up of its budget resolution Wednesday night, with full House consideration next week.

They would do this by replacing the sequester with an even mix of other spending cuts and revenue from ending certain tax breaks, allowing additional discretionary spending in fiscal 2014 and succeeding years.

Matt Fuller contributed to this story.