- The Washington Times - Friday, March 27, 2009

Days after being chided by President Obama for offering no alternative to his $3.6 trillion budget, House Republicans on Thursday released their own spending plan that proved light on numbers and specific policy proposals.

Endorsing across-the-board tax cuts, the 19-page “Republican Road to Recovery” was a general policy statement that slams Mr. Obama’s spending and tax plan as harmful to future generations without identifying a detailed alternative.

House Minority Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, defended his party’s handiwork, but the White House was quick to seize on the proposal’s vagueness.

“When the president came to Capitol Hill and [Democrats] got his blueprint during the State of the Union … he didn’t offer his details until days later,” Mr. Boehner said Thursday. “Today, we’re offering our blueprint for where we believe we can help build our economy again.”

Even calling it a blueprint was a step back from Wednesday, when Republicans billed the plan as a “budget alternative” in a news release.

“It’s interesting to have a budget that doesn’t contain any numbers,” White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said. “I think the administration is glad that the Republicans heard the president’s call to submit an alternative. We just hope that next time it will contain actual numbers so somebody can evaluate what it means.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, was similarly dismissive, calling the proposal “a document with little detail that would lead us back to the failed Bush economic policies that the American people have soundly rejected.”

“House Republican leaders have proven once again that they are the party of ‘no’ - no new ideas and no innovative solutions,” she said.

Vowing not to be merely that “party of no,” House Republicans have tried to back up their criticism of Democrats with concrete alternatives - beginning with their own version of the stimulus passed earlier this session - even if they have little chance of passage in a Democrat-dominated Congress.

But on the budget, tax reform appeared to be the only area in which Republicans were ready to offer specific ideas. Their plan would set income tax rates of 10 percent for those making less than $100,000 a year and make the set highest rate at 25 percent, down from the current 36 percent.

“The president’s budget would have us cast all of our cares and worries on a government we cannot afford while leaving our children and grandchildren crushing debt and exorbitant taxes. Republicans choose a different path that offers freedom and prosperity for this generation and the next by allowing families to keep more of their own money to spend on their priorities,” the document says.

On issues such as health care, energy, the deficit and national debt, the Republican document was little more than a statement of broad principles.

Mr. Boehner shrugged off questions from reporters on how the Republican budget would cut spending, saying those details would be addressed when the caucus puts out its full alternative in anticipation of floor debate next week. But the scene was awkwardly anticlimactic, with an MSNBC anchor complaining on-air that the network cut away from coverage of Mr. Obama for the news conference.

Mr. Boehner and House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence of Indiana were left alone fielding reporters’ questions after Minority Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia and Rep. Paul D. Ryan, the ranking member on the Budget Committee, made opening statements and then left.

House and Senate Democrats presented their versions of the budget this week. The House Budget Committee approved its version Wednesday, and the Senate Budget Committee approved its version Thursday. Mr. Obama’s ambitious budget blueprint announced last month calls for an overhaul of the health care system and big investments in areas such as energy and education.

Senate Republicans have said they don’t intend to offer a direct alternative to Mr. Obama’s budget, hoping instead to alter it through the amendment process.

Democrats did not hesitate to ridicule the Republican document’s lack of specificity.

“After 27 days, the best House Republicans could come up with is a 19-page pamphlet that does not include a single real budget proposal or estimate. There are more numbers in my last sentence than there are in the entire House GOP ‘budget,’ ” said Hari Sevugan, a spokesman for the Democratic National Committee. “It’s clear after this announcement that neither [House nor Senate Republicans] have anything to offer but criticism.”

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