House Republicans pushed their 2015 budget through on Thursday, adopting a plan that holds steady on taxes but calls for deep spending cuts to bring the budget into balance by 2024.
The 219-205 vote was chiefly symbolic — Senate Democrats have already said they won’t cooperate on writing a final compromise budget this year, and the discretionary spending levels that set the spending Congress has the most direct control over were already set in a December deal.
But the vote lays out the GOP’s priorities heading into the mid-term congressional elections: cutting Obamacare’s benefits but keeping the tax revenue in place, changing Medicare for seniors who retire more than a decade in the future, boosting defense spending, and slashing domestic programs to get back into the black.
“We’re offering a balanced budget that pays down the debt,” said Rep. Paul Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee. “We’re offering a plan to save Medicare now and for future generations. We’re offering a stronger safety net with state flexibility to help meet people’s needs and to help people get from welfare to work.”
The budget will be Mr. Ryan’s final one, since he’s term-limited and will have to give up the committee gavel at the end of this year.
Though the budget cleared with room to spare, a dozen Republicans voted against it — the highest level of dissent of any of Mr. Ryan’s budgets since he became chairman in 2011. The dissenters were a mix of moderates and conservatives, signaling some continued heartburn over both the depth and pace of the budget cuts called for in the blueprint.
Mr. Ryan’s budget would trim $127 billion from spending in 2015, and would cut deficits by $5 trillion over the next decade, if it were enacted as-is.
The biggest chunk of savings would come from repealing the benefits of Obamacare, which Mr. Ryan said would save more than $2 trillion.
Democrats attacked the budget as an assault on average Americans, saying the cuts to domestic programs will leave most people worse off.
“At every juncture in this House Republican budget, they choose to protect very powerful special interests and the most wealthy in our country at the expense of everybody else,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, the ranking Democrat on the Budget Committee.
Mr. Van Hollen’s own proposal, which combined spending increases and tax increases, was defeated on a 261-163 vote, with 31 Democrats joining the Republicans in opposing it.
President Obama’s own budget outline, which the GOP offered as a test-vote on Wednesday, was defeated on a 413-2 vote.
Mr. Obama’s budget called for spending $3.901 trillion in 2015, while Mr. Ryan’s plan would spend $3.664 trillion.
Despite passing, the GOP budget isn’t going anywhere either.
Senate Democrats have said they won’t write a budget this year, which means there won’t be a final congressional agreement.