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House factions plan to offer budget alternatives

While the House is expected Friday to approve the Republicans' official budget plan for 2012, it's not the only spending blueprint the chamber will consider.

Five other budget plans - including the House Democratic Caucus' version - also are on the table. And while the alternative plans have little if any chance of passing, they provide members a swath of budget options that will serve as debating points on spending bills the rest of the year.

The plans range greatly in scope, from the conservative Republican Study Committee's proposal to cut non-defense discretionary spending by almost half in 10 years to the Progressive Congressional Caucus' goal to end funding for the Afghanistan and Iraq war efforts.

"Like every American family, we must tighten our belts," said Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen, the House Budget Committee's senior Democrat. "But it is clear that the Republican budget amounts to a yellow-brick road for the already prosperous and a dead end for the rest of the country."

The House Republican plan, which is expected to pass, is a nonbinding blueprint that will serve as a starting point when debate on the federal government's spending bills heats up in the coming months. It calls for a reduction in government spending by $5.8 trillion during the next decade through a series of program cuts, entitlement reforms, tax-code overhauls and a repeal of the 2010 health care law.

The plan, crafted by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, Wisconsin Republican, also aims to bring non-security discretionary spending to below 2008 levels.

Mr. Van Hollen's budget plan, in contrast, would cut the deficit by $1.2 trillion more than President Obama's budget over 10 years and reach "primary balance" - when yearly revenues match annual expenses, save for debt payment - by 2018, three years later than the Ryan budget.

The Republican Study Committee's proposal takes Mr. Ryan's budget austerity further and likely will attract support from some conservative House members. The proposal promises to shrink the federal budget deficit to zero in less than a decade - years earlier than the Ryan plan.

"This budget blueprint proves that it is possible to balance the budget in 10 years, despite what skeptics would like you to believe," said Rep. Scott Garrett of New Jersey, chairman of the group's budget and spending task force.

To help accomplish that goal, the RSC plan would freeze total discretionary spending at the 2008 level - $933 billion - beginning in 2013. And it aims to reduce "unnecessary" mandatory spending - other than Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security - by $1.9 trillion between 2012 and 2021.

On the opposite side of the ideological spectrum, the Congressional Progressive Caucus budget plan calls for raising taxes on the most wealthy and cutting government subsidies to oil, gas and coal companies. The proposal also promises to reach a primary budget balance by 2014 and a budget surplus by 2021.

The Congressional Black Caucus budget alternative would restore several proposed cuts in the president's budget plan, including cuts aimed at the Community Development Block Grant program, the Pell Grant program for college students and a program that subsidizes winter heating bills for the poor.

To help offset increased spending, the caucus would raise taxes on the nation's top wage earners, close certain tax "loopholes and preferences," and deny mortgage deductions for vacation homes and yachts.

A budget plan by Rep. Jim Cooper, a centrist Tennessee Democrat, calls for reducing the deficit by $4 billion over 10 years - two-thirds of the savings coming from spending cuts with the rest achieved through tax reform.

Mr. Cooper's plan, billed as the "only bipartisan approach," would return spending to 2008 levels by 2013, cap revenue at 21 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) while cutting tax rates for individuals, small businesses and corporations.

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