House Passes GOP Budget, Setting Stage for Tax Cut Debate

(CN) — The House Thursday passed a $4.1 trillion budget plan that’s a critical step for the party’s drive to rewrite the tax code later this year.

The 2018 House GOP budget calls for more than $5 trillion in spending cuts over the coming decade, and envisions deep cuts to social programs and departmental budgets and includes a controversial provision that would dramatically alter Medicare, turning it into a  voucher-like program for future retirees.

“It’s a budget that will help grow our economy, and it’s a budget that will help rein in our debt,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., after the vote. “It reforms Medicaid. It strengthens Medicare.”

In reality, the 219-206 vote on the budget is seen as establishing the House GOP’s bargaining position in upcoming talks with the Senate and it moves forward with the party’s top political priority before the 2018 mid-term elections – passing a major tax overhaul package.

Even with assurances that follow-up measures to implement the budget will not be voted on, 18 Republicans voted against the budget proposal Thursday. Some argued the proposed cuts in the nonbinding bill simply didn’t go far enough.

“The train’s left the station, and if you’re a budget hawk, you were left at the station,” said Rep. Mark Sanford, R-S.C., told the Associated Press.

In their early posturing over the planned tax reform measure, House Republicans have insisted that cutting corporate and individual tax rates while eliminating loopholes in the tax code will dramatically accelerate economic growth, and that growth will overcome any initial budget shortfalls.

Passing the measure in the House and Senate would provide key procedural help for the tax measure because it sets the stage for follow-on legislation that can’t be filibustered by Senate Democrats.

“Through reconciliation, our budget specifically paves the way for pro-growth tax reform that will reduce taxes for middle class Americans and free up American businesses to grow and hire,” said Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn., who chairs the House Budget Committee.

Democrats blasted the sweeping spending cuts proposed by their GOP colleagues.

“Is it a statement of our values to take a half-trillion dollars out of Medicare to give a tax cut to the wealthiest people in our country?” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., in a statement.

The Senate Budget Committee is scheduled to consider a companion to the House plan Thursday afternoon.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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