- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 29, 2007

The House yesterday narrowly passed a $2.9 trillion budget resolution for fiscal 2008 that increases spending for children’s health care, education and defense while pledging to balance the budget by 2012.

Democrats, who crafted the proposal, say it restores fiscal responsibility in the federal government after 12 years of Republican control. Republicans called the budget “reckless” and said it will lead to the largest tax increase in history.

The resolution passed by a vote of 216-210 after two days of debate, and now must be reconciled with a similar Senate version passed last week.

The annual budget resolution is a nonbinding outline that guides future legislation and establishes overall spending and revenue goals. It will be up to individual committees to determine where the money goes.

The proposal calls for a nearly $25 billion increase next year for domestic programs popular with lawmakers in both parties, approves President Bush’s record $50 billion budget increase for the Pentagon’s non-war budget and allocates $145 billion for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan next year.

The House budget would spend about $22 billion more than Mr. Bush’s proposed budget for discretionary programs subject to the annual appropriations process.

This budget “will take our nation in a new direction and begin to clean up the fiscal train wreck left by Republicans,” said House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat. “This is a budget that we can be proud of. And, it stands in stark contrast to the extraordinarily irresponsible policies of the last six years.”

The resolution provides temporary relief from the alternative minimum tax for about 20 million taxpayers. The tax was intended for only the wealthiest but would hit millions of middle-class taxpayers without congressional action.

House Minority Whip Roy Blunt, Missouri Republican, said the budget does little to encourage the creation of good-paying jobs.

“Read through this budget from preface to postscript, and you’ll find new taxes and an awful lot of new spending,” Mr. Blunt said. “You’ll find faulty assumptions and misguided premises. You’ll find a house of cards stacked on a bed of worms.”

Democrats say their proposal includes no new taxes and anticipates a $153 billion surplus in 2012, but only if a series of popular tax cuts instituted by Mr. Bush in 2001 and 2003 is allowed to expire in 2010.

Republicans credit those cuts — on income, investments, estates, married couples and families with children, among other things — with reviving the economy from a recession early in Mr. Bush’s first term.

“Each and every day, it is frighteningly more obvious that this new [Democratic] majority is nothing more than a carbon copy of their vintage ‘tax and spend’ predecessors,” said Rep. Tom Price, Georgia Republican.

Mr. Hoyer said the tax cuts never were meant to be permanent, and denied that letting them expire equals a tax increase.

“This budget does not raise a single penny in new taxes — not one,” Mr. Hoyer said. “And if Republicans say it does, they’re not telling the truth.”

The future of the tax cuts likely won’t be decided until after the 2008 presidential election.

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