NATIONAL HARBOR, MD - MARCH 15: U.S. Sen. Paul Ryan (R-WI) delivers remarks during the second day of the 40th annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) March 15, 2013 in National Harbor, Maryland. The American conservative Union held its annual conference in the suburb of Washington, DC, to rally conservatives and generate ideas. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON - The U.S. House narrowly approved a conservative budget plan authored by Rep. Paul Ryan, 221-207, on Thursday on a largely party-line vote.
The fiscal blueprint does not have the force of law but outlines the GOP's priorities over a 10-year budget window to reduce the deficit and overhaul the Medicare system.
No Democrats voted for the plan. "House Republicans decided to double down on the failed policies that the American people rejected just a few months ago," said Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash. The Democratic Senate is debating a competing budget on Thursday with passage scheduled Friday. Congress will then adjourn for a two-week Spring recess.
The House also passed a short-term spending bill to avert a government shutdown that now heads to President Obama for his signature.
The long-term blueprint is similar to the two previous budgets authored by Ryan, R-Wis., the Budget Committee chairman, since Republicans took control of the House in 2010. Among the most cited and controversial proposals is a fundamental overhaul of Medicare to a premium support system for Americans 55 and younger. Future seniors would be given federal subsidies to buy their own health insurance in contrast to the current guaranteed benefit system.
Ryan's plan also achieves balance -- where the federal government does not spend more than it takes in in revenue -- in 10 years. The timeline is a dramatic acceleration toward balance than Ryan's previous plan, but there was a groundswell of support for the more austere plan within the conservative rank-and-file.
The budget plan raises no new revenues and cuts the corporate tax rate. It also protects the Pentagon from cuts while slashing deeper into accounts that fund domestic agencies like the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Institutes of Health.
"This budget does more than just balance," said House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, boasting that it also authorizes construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline across the U.S. and fully repeals President Obama's health care law.
The Senate budget blueprint, authored by Democrats, is more modest, focusing on equal ratios of about $1 trillion in spending cuts to $1 trillion in new revenues gained by closing tax loopholes. Their budget lowers the ratio of debt to the overall economy, but it chooses job growth and infrastructure spending over balancing the budget and overhauling entitlements as the best way to boost economic growth.
"The budget the Senate Democrats are considering never balances-ever. Which quite frankly means more debt, fewer jobs and less security for the American people," said Boehner.
The House also overwhelmingly approved Thursday, 318-109, a federal spending bill to keep the government funded through Sept. 30, averting a March 27 shutdown. The spending bill includes measures to give the Pentagon and other agencies more flexibility to implement automatic spending cuts -- known as sequestration -- that kicked in March 1. The Senate passed the same bill Wednesday.
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