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March 23, 2013

Senate Democrats near approval on budget deal

(Continued)

WASHINGTON —

Murray combines $975 billion in unspecified tax increases with net cuts in spending of $875 billion to replace the automatic cuts. The plan promises a $693 billion deficit in 2014, dropping to the $400 billion range for the middle years of the decade. While large, such deficits would hover just above 2 percent of gross domestic product, a level that many analysts see as economically sustainable.

All told, the slashing House budget projects $4 trillion more in deficit cuts than the Murray plan, but only by assuming cuts to Medicaid, food stamps and farm programs, among others — and cutting domestic agency spending covering such areas as education, the FBI, NASA and housing subsidies by almost 20 percent next year.

The Democratic plan sticks to agency budget “caps” set in the 2011 deal and leaves safety-net programs for the poor virtually alone. Its cuts to the rapidly spiraling Medicare program are limited to health care providers and are less stringent than those proposed by Obama.

“The Senate budget puts forward serious, responsible deficit reduction that reflects the recommendations of bipartisan experts, and the values and priorities of the American people,” Murray said.

Senate Republicans did not draft a budget plan of their own, though 40 of them voted for the House GOP measure. Instead, they focused their fire on the Democratic version, saying it does nothing about the rapidly rising costs of Medicare and other benefit programs, while allowing the national debt to reach $24.4 trillion by 2023.

“In addition to having these huge tax increases — the biggest in the history of the country — this budget also has huge spending,” said Sen. Rob. Portman, R-Ohio. “The spending is actually an increase when you wipe away all the gimmicks.”

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